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Stuffed to the gills with Gallic charm

Sardine, with a menu inspired by sunny flavours from around the Med, is exactly the type of quality neighbourhood restaurant that’s hard to find in the capital

15 March, 2018 — By Tom Moggach

Bouillabaisse is just one example of Sardine’s ‘soothing soul food from Southern France’

THIS cosy French restaurant has an unlikely view – of the neon-lit McDonald’s drive-thru near Old Street.

Positioned on the north side of Micawber Street, the restaurant Sardine serves soothing soul food from Southern France.

On the other side, honking drivers snack on Sticky ‘n’ Sweet BBQ Chicken. It’s a marvellous clash of cultures that somehow feels apt.

This part of London is fizzing with energy, with tons of glossy new flats and trendy tech firms taking root.

Slip down the side streets, however, and you get glimpses of old-fashioned Islington.

The wonderful Wenlock Arms, one of London’s best pubs, is a two-minute walk from Sardine – and a fine place to start your evening. (Try to resist their cheese toasties if you want to enjoy the meal).

Sardine is a new-ish restaurant, tucked away in this residential zone behind City Road.

Squeeze in past a small bar stocked with an awesome selection of obscure aperitifs such as Picon or Noix de la St Jean.

The room then opens up, with an open-plan kitchen to the left and two long rows of tables seating around 45.

While waiting for my friend, I warmed up with a spiced toddy made with Suze (a bitter liqueur), spiced quince syrup, verjus and Earl Grey – a sophisticated concoction that boded well for the night ahead.

The menu is inspired by sunny flavours from around the Med, often with lashings of butter and cheese. “Southern French Cooking Over a Wood Fire” is their strapline.

We used our spoons to slurp an oozy white risotto; a salad of Petit Violet artichoke, spinach and Parmesan was a fresh and crunchy antidote to the creamy richness.

Other options included a fennel soup with blood orange or mussels with Breton cider and sea purslane.

Best of our mains was a whole fresh sole with Pink Fir potatoes, spinach, leeks and a buttery sauce.

A tartiflette was the real deal, too, but came with a hefty price tag of £16.50 for a rather small portion.

After indulgent cooking like this, an uplifting blood orange sorbet hit the spot for pudding.

An almond sponge cake was a touch dense, served with poached rhubarb and honey custard.

Sardine is open for breakfast from 10.30am and also offers a fixed price menu (two courses for £16; three for £20) from 12-3pm Tuesday to Friday and 6-7pm Monday to Friday.

Their brunch menu at weekends spans from rhubarb, yoghurt and almond to a ragoût of fennel, artichoke, salsify, dried ceps, white beans and aioli.

I was entirely charmed by Sardine. Service is unstuffy and excellent; prices no higher than most gastropubs in north London. This is exactly the type of quality neighbourhood restaurant that’s hard to find in the capital.

Tucked away off the main drag, it’s designed for lucky locals. (“They live here and follow the smell,” explains our waitress).

But don’t let them hog the tables – Sardine is well worth a dash to N1.

15 Micawber St, N1
020 7490 0144


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