On the day Summer 2021 gave way to climate change, we visited Sager + Wilde. The irony walking up ‘Paradise Row’ in driving rain and shoes soaked through with Bethnal Green’s finest drain water was not lost on us.
Sager + Wilde’s story started in 2013, when Swiss-born Londoner Michael Sager opened his now-seminal wine bar on Hackney Road. This tiny establishment is considered to be the first great wine bar in East London and is even being used as a reference point for the wine bar we are opening in my hotel in The City. Sager then opened a restaurant called ‘Mission’ in the railway arches on Paradise Row, and after some legal nonsense involving a Mexican trademark, this was subsequently reopened as a second, larger Sager + Wilde, this outpost offering food alongside the bountiful wine list. The reputation of both sites precede themselves; for me, never having visited either, this was one long awaited brunch.
Sager + Wilde, born out of the zenith of the hipster age, gives off a very hipstery vibe. The black awnings and dark wood interior accent a rustic, natural vibe. There is a broad terrace (in light of the weather, we changed our booking to sit inside), but the glass façade opens fully. We were able to sit near the window, hearing and smelling the rain outside, enjoying our flights of white wine in the shelter, lounge music playing overhead.
The brunch menu was exceptionally small, being a handful of starters, egg dishes and a choice of two pastas, so we ended up taking almost one of everything. It’s the first time in my life I could say that I ordered the whole menu (except the eggs).
Small menus are fine if the quality is there. And the quality was there, in spades. Four cheese arancini were orgasmic, little umami palate-zingers to kick off the meal. Homemade focaccia was bouncy and salty (and a surprise, as well didn’t order it). The European ‘started’ with a Devon Crab roll with home-made potato chips. The crab almost made her cry with happiness. It was fresh and seasoned perfectly, generously stuffed into a fluffy brioche roll. It could have been enough by itself, to be enjoyed lingeringly with a glass of fantastic white. My starter of burrata with fig was a perfect example as to how good this creamy cheese can be.
We agreed that the homemade pasta was excellent, but a little behind what we have eaten in other celebrated pasta joints such as Gloria or Eataly. My beef shin ragù was a little on the watery side but still held great flavour. The tiramisu blew us away, but it always was going to, wasn’t it?
We settled up the very reasonable bill (less than £one hundred all in, for three courses and six glasses of wine). We took coffee on the go, stopping off at the nearby and very hilarious Fuckoffee. The European stopped at a charity shop and got beaten to Chinese tea set by the fastest old Chinese lady in the world. What a hipstery afternoon it was. I could have been back in the early 2010s.
I have eaten in a Sager + Wilde restaurant before. Fare is the group’s most recent offering, and it was fantastic, a thoroughly enjoyable evening out. The hallmarks of fresh bread, great drinking, friendly service, and quality ingredients stand firm, showing that Sager + Wilde as a group is not a one-trick-pony, rather a welcome and reliable staple of London’s restaurant scene, before or after this inclement apocalypse.