Wednesday, 25 August 2010
Since I commute to work in Zone 4 West West Paradise each day, I'm not always completely au fait with the funky wine bars and hidden delights catering to the after work crowd in the city centre. You might think that's a huge, gaping hole in my repertoire, but let me assure you that I more than make up for it - if you need to know the weekday happy hours of any of the old man pubs of Zone 4 By The Highway, I'm your girl.
Restaurant Sauterelle is quietly situated on the mezzanine level of the Royal Exchange building. I must have passed it squadillions of times on the number 8 bus, never knowing what lies behind the grand old facade. Enter the doors and you'll find a reasonably glam little arcade with high ceilings, some upmarket retailers and, all importantly, the Royal Exchange Grand Cafe bar posited in the middle. It's a lively spot to join the after 5 crowd for a pre-dinner drink. So, I did just that.
Restaurant Sauterelle, overlooking the hoi poloi, is not a place I knew much about. But I've enjoyed having my eyes opened lately to some places, housing capable chefs, which seem to have fallen off the foodie radar. It turns out Sauterelle is worth keeping in mind, particularly for the city crowd.
Head Chef Robin Gill is Irish born, but has done in his time in French and Italian restaurants. The experience is evident in the technically skilled dishes coming out of the semi-open kitchen.
The dining room itself has all the airs and graces of quiet, slightly corporate fine dining. The city clientele sit in reasonably hushed surrounds under soaring archways and frescos, enjoying interesting, elegant French/Italian fare.
We tested out the summer menu - 4 courses for £28 including a glass of the fantastic English sparkling wine, Nyetimber.
To start, a San Marzano tomato gazpacho, dotted with fresh ricotta, slivers of courgette and basil. While nice enough, this wasn't a blazing start with the tomato being quite rich and saucy, rather than light and delicate - I think tomato based soups are one of the hardest things to get right to avoid a touch of the dreaded "tinned Heinz" flavour.
But then the smoked Glenarm salmon confit with beetroot textures, horseradish cream, hazelnut and dill salad was gorgeous - top quality, luscious salmon with an interesting balance of contrasting flavours.
Stealing from the a la carte menu, the cornish crab raviolo with cucumber, samphire, lemongrass and coriander (£13.90) was well executed if of subtle flavours.
My warm salad of crisp, slow cooked Devonshire lamb (so tender, and mellow in flavour), nuggety sweetbread, peas, borlotti beans, creamy Ratte potatoes and a caper and parsley sauce was also adept.
A chilled watermelon soup with Muscat de Rivesaltes, fresh mint, and a honey and dew sorbet, was interesting and refreshing. It's not something I would normally order (and I wasn't won over enough to order it again) but I'm sure you'll like this version if it's your kind of thing.
The vanilla panna cotta with English summer berries, sugared pine nuts and basil was gloriously wobbly and the full, sweet, creamy vanilla flavours made this a perfect end to a long meal.
Each dish was accompanied by Nyetimber sparkling English wine. We started with the 2005 - a lovely fruity, appley fizz - and later moved on to the superb 2001 - having more yeasty, brioche flavours balancing with the crisp apple. Fantastic wines.
While a la carte prices are at the upper end of the scale (generally £18-24 for a main course), good value, lower cost options are available with the summer set menu (£28 for 4 courses and a glass of Nyetimer sparkling wine) and standard set menus (2 courses £19.50, 3 courses £22.50).
One to remember for accomplished food, in a city and suits atmosphere.
Restaurant Sauterelle, The Royal Exchange Building, Bank, London EC3V 3LR
(Tel: 020 7618 2483)
Greedy Diva was a guest of Restaurant Sauterelle, along with other bloggers .