The Upstairs Bar at Fare

Fare Bar + Canteen, London EC1: cocktail bar review

The latest launch from the team behind Sager + Wilde delivers punchy, creative cocktails, intriguing wines and pared-back sharing plates

Looking for bars in Clerkenwell? Read our review of Fare, a creative bar and eatery on Old Street

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Fare in a nutshell: An ambitious new bar and restaurant from Michael Sager and Marcis Dzelzainis, the duo behind much-loved east London wine spot Sager + Wilde.

Check out more wine bars that serve food here.

Where is it? A six-minute walk from Barbican underground station.


What’s the vibe?

Fare, located in the old Morelands building on Old Street, is a venue of two halves. Entry takes you first to the Upstairs Bar, a large, light-filled minimalist space with Crittal windows, high ceilings and pendant lamps, dominated by a sweeping marble-topped, horseshoe-shaped bar. Head downstairs to find a more intimate restaurant and bar set-up: low lighting casts a soft glow across the basement room, with an exposed-pipe ceiling brightened up with whitewashed brick and plants of all shapes and sizes.

A room with high ceilings and dark tables and chairs
Downstairs at Fare. Photo by Charlie McKay

What’s the drinks menu like?

There’s lots to explore at Fare. On the ground floor there’s a roster of pithy, affordably priced cocktails on tap, from nitro espresso martini to old fashioned, plus coffee (from Assembly Coffee in Brixton), natural wines and beers. Downstairs there’s a separate menu of pricier cocktails replete with à la mode and homemade ingredients – from clarified milk to celeriac-infused vermouth. There’s also a 250-strong, Sager + Wilde-curated wine list, packed with boutique producers hailing anywhere from Burgundy to Greece.


Which drinks to order at Fare?

Cocktails on tap are easy-drinking, yet refined. Altos tequila and sour cherry with Punt e Mes vermouth, verjus and eucalyptus is a dream pairing, the mouth-puckering dryness of the fruit a match for the bright vegetal notes of the spirit. A Green Apple Spritz – Lillet Blanc vermouth, clarified Granny Smith apple juice, 30&40 Aperitif de Normandie (a blend of calvados, pommeau and rum) and soda water – was bright and refreshing, with a distinctive green apple snap.

Downstairs, drinks are complex and punchy. Gin infused with petit grain (an essential oil extracted from the leaves and twigs of the bitter orange tree) gives a negroni a herbaceous edge, while a celeriac martini is a crystalline yet earthy and deeply savoury marriage of Beefeater gin with celeriac-infused vermouth, celeriac brine and sherry. An on-trend milk punch with clarified milk (where the dairy solids are removed, leaving behind a clear, light liquid that retains the creamy character and silky mouthful of milk), beurre noisette (brown butter), cognac and lemon is the standout drink of the night, with subtle salty-sweet butterscotch and lactic notes.

The wine list is dense, so do chat to the helpful sommelier if you’re feeling daunted. A Greek moschofilero is aromatic, fresh and vibrant, while another Greek wine, a robola, is more robust and round, with oak notes and a long finish thanks to the limestone the vines are grown in. On the reds list, a tempranillo has very ripe fruit but retained a refreshing acidity, while an intense Georgian saperavi budeshuri delivered plenty of well-integrated tannins and an earthy complexity.


Is there any food?

Downstairs, head chef Thomas Raymond – previously of the now closed Michelin-starred Ellory – has put together a menu of seasonal, vegetable-forward small plates and larger sharing ones.

Dishes are simple but pack in plenty of flavour, from spicy pickled carrots with soft goat’s curd and soft, pillowy sesame flatbread, to a flatbread unctuously topped with brown butter, smoky caramelised aubergine and sumac, covered with a slightly OTT duvet of fresh green herbs. Confit fennel with chilli and goat’s curd on toast is a mixed affair – the vegetable cooked until lusciously soft, but the dish as a whole too oily, needing the zing of citrus to lift it.

A whole plaice comes basted in a lavish curry brown butter – the sweet, mild flesh the perfect foil for the spices. Beautifully flavoured Denver beef, lightly seared and caramelised around the edges, is elegant, the richness of the meat balanced by a tangy pomegranate sauce and another verdant blanket of fresh, whole herbs.

Food at Fare
Food at Fare

Where to go nearby for dinner: Head to Luca, a four-minute walk away, for modern European fine dining.

Price: From £4.50 for a cocktail upstairs, and from £6 downstairs.

farebarandcanteen.com

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Words by Hannah Guinness