A Celebratory Lunch at Sager+Wilde
Another grey city day …. and what better prospect than a lunch to celebrate the pairing of Parmigiano cheese and Balsamic vinegar, hosted in a candlelit railway arch near Bethnal Green . A first visit to Sage+Wilde. They win me over immediately with their in-house fizzy water which sees me through a nosey-around this inviting bricked space and all through lunch … complimenting each course perfectly. But first we get to taste! A hard cheese rich in history, mature in flavour showing no sign of going out of fashion. It stands superior as a cheese that can be eaten without adornment or dipped into a pool of balsamic. We were fortunate to be able to taste 18 month old, 24 month old and 30 month old Parmigiano alongside 12 year and 25 year Balsamic…the older the cheese, the drier and more crystalline , the older the balsamic (let’s not call it vinegar)the sweeter, more intense….. And so to the lunch menu! Six courses , the first and final two courses devised and prepared by Chris Leach, Head Chef @ S+W, the remaining courses presented by Gianpaolo Raschi, a Michelin star chef from Modena. The first course, with a chewsome Burrata was delightfully crunchy-crisp from the nut soffritto. A beautifully presented, substantial dish. Personally, I found it a bit too robust, on the heavy side as an opener and would have preferred it to swap places with the bright, colourful, light and moreish prawn dish. Such a vivid vibrant dish, enriched by just the right hint of sweetness from the 24 month balsamic. The squid (which I had without the duck liver) did not benefit from being served cold but I loved the crunchy sing of the red onion pickled in balsamic .I am a lover of chickpeas and this soupy broth full of big fat chickpeas and plump clams was a heavenly bowl of comfort, based on a family recipe, faultless in its delivery. Hats off to chef Raschi (below, right).I can only rely on fellow guests with regard to the beef sausage and they evidently enjoyed it especially the fact that it was made in-house. Meanwhile, my hake was perfectly cooked, an excellent flavour and texture that worked really well with the burnt shallot. I’d imagine the beef stood up better as a robust companion to the 30 month cheese .And finally, dessert. A bit of a colour and shape theme going on here as we finish with a dish that looks similar to the first dish, both from Chef Chris Leach (below) Big on portion, big on flavour, absolutely loved the plump baked fig with the creamy vanilla icecream and again, a terrific balance of flavours, syrupy yet tangy, a perfect place for the glossy “younger” 12 year old balsamic to shine. A sweet ending to a skilfully prepared lunch that certainly did justice to its two key players .