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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Words by Hannah Guinness