Sunday, 17 November 2013

Sager + Wilde, Hackney: 19/20

Location: 193 Hackney Road E2 8JL


Visit: From 5pm or 2pm for Sunday indulgence!

To Note: It's not just wines they do well, their toasties are fab!

Ambiance 4/5
Design 5/5
Drinks 5/5
Staff 5/5 

I had been waiting for this opening for quite a while, not only after their pop up last Christmas on Old Street roundabout but also seeing their regular photos of the bar developing. And I was not disappointed; Located almost opposite the old QuiQuiRiQui mezcaleria, about a 5 minute fast walk from Shoredtich High Street, wooden venetian blinds and a simple SAGER+WILDE above the door cannot hide that the windows were already steamed up on a cold night and already half full just a few minutes after opening - the East End has been waiting for such a venue!

And yes, this is an East End establishment which means full beards, army surplus jackets and designer glasses abound but mixed in with a range of different ages, in couples, big groups or even locals having a quick glass and chat to the staff. To be honest if you have got a seat here you also have the right to look smug. It is not a cheap night but it will be a good one, especially if you nab a stool at the old street paving bar to get Mike (Sager)'s wisdom on wine choice. 

There are some sherries and vermouths but the wine is what you come for with a daily changing range of whites and reds by the glass and available to take away - often rather special - and if that is not enough the "special list" by the bottle as well. And the staff are well versed and most importantly passionate about their choices so come armed
with just a few preferences (dry/sweet, fruity/full bodied etc) and let them be your guide. 

If you get hungry, their toasties are divine or opt for a cheese and meat board - they will also help you choose by the wine you are enjoying!

This is a wonderful little addition to Hackney Road and one I hope to return to again and again. Well done Mike and Charlotte!

Monday, 4 November 2013

The Blind Pig, Soho: 20/20

Location: 58 Poland Street, London, W1F 7NR


Visit: Every time you are free!

To Note: Enjoy some nibbles if you cannot get a dinner table downstairs

Ambiance 5/5
Design 5/5
Drinks 5/5
Staff 5/5 

The Blind Pig. From the minute I walked in (through the wrong door, take the wooden door to the right of the restaurant which has both a pig's head on it and is under the optician's sign) I felt like I may have found another of those gems on the bar scene - and the proof is that I keep going back.

The decor is reminiscent of Hawksmoor with lots of leather and dark wood alongside burnished metal. (It is not a speakeasy by any standards but) the low lighting and cosy booths make this place feel wonderfully illicit, even if you are sitting on the exceedingly comfy leather bar stool watching the magic happen. 

The drinks - as group bar manager and legend Gareth Evans says - are already being copied elsewhere in the capital and we all know this is the sincerest form of flattery. In particular their thermo-nuclear daiquiri - though not a recipe that they can claim - is served with bio-hazard tape and a glow stick so look out for this serve! Cereal killer is served in a clear plastic milk carton and garnishes are divine. And the menu is well proportioned with all the bar staff working together to ensure a menu that covers the bases without overwhelming you. I have tried several drinks over my visits and the currently trending Slap and Pickle - yup, gin with pickle juice - still stays with me as both intriguing and worth another order! 

Speaking of staff, these guys are polite and friendly, and under the tutelage of Gareth Evans (Diageo's World Class star 2012) are also knowledgeable in both spirits and cocktails. 

I cannot say enough good things about The Blind Pig; and they have followed up this success just a few months later with Berner's Tavern in Editions Hotel. It is barely 5 minutes walk away and utterly decadent - Jason Atherton's empire knows no bounds and long may this continue.