Five days a week I trundle along Hackney Road twice a day. In the morning, I pass the coffee shops with envy, but in the evening it’s the bars and pubs that have my attention. For such a nondescript stretch of tarmac, the area has a better list of boozers than most. Along with The Marksman (the Michelin Pub Guide's 2017 pub of the year) and Morito, Sager & Wilde is another standout bar that chosen this bit of East London to set up shop. I made my Hackney Road trip on the weekend to see what all the fuss is about.
Venue and atmosphere
Sager & Wilde has earnt itself the reputation as one of the best wine bars in the city, and its Hackney outpost is its first, defining bricks and mortar site. Located up from Columbia road, on the frankly pretty ugly Hackney Road, Sager and Wilde shouldn’t work, but come Saturday night, the spot is heaving with couples and groups of well-heeled friends.
Once spit and sawdust British Lion Pub, the bar has stripped everything back for a low-key and down to earth venue. Street side tables takeover the pavement, people sit swigging wine on the pavement and inside, tables are a hair’s width from the bar stools. Everything is simple and unfussy, from the exposed brick walls through to the polished wooden floors and wine rack against the back of the bar,; any of the pretentiousness usually associated with wine bar, isn't present here.
Food and Drink
Since opening in 2015, Sager & Wilde has been named one of the best wine bars in the world; that’s some serious credentials. Where other wine bars flourish and speak in a gobbledygook understood only by those with prior knowledge, Sager & Wilde aim to appeal to the everyday layman. As well as a book of wines by the bottle, there’s also a shorter list of wines by the glass that the knowledgeable bar staff know like the back of their hand.
It was warm and I was getting over a fever, so when I asked for a light and easy red, a glass of Pustza Libre (£8) was brought out. My companion went for something heavier with a rouge from Chateau Musar (£13.50), a renowned vineyard in Lebanon which produces bottles full of fruity, plummy flavours. That’s the beauty of the bar’s wine list, it’s concise and designed to have something for everyone’s palette. Perhaps the most interesting glasses were the ‘skins’, two glasses of orange wine. Both Catarratto ‘Baglio Bianco’ (£7) and Enizo Rose (£8) were fresh and almost rough tasting, with the light citrus feel of a white but the complexity and flavour of a red.
While the Bethnal Green outpost is a fully-fledged restaurant, the Hackney Road spot sticks to nibbles in its food offerings. Fat and gooey cheese toasties are available but we went with charcuterie and cheese. Sticking with their ethos of pure and simple, the bar serves up a selection of four cheeses (£15) from Spitalfields-based Androuet, while thick cut salami and wisps of proscuitto (boards cost £12) are sourced from Black Hand Foods in Hackney Wick.
Sager & Wilde certainly isn’t cheap, and while the low-key interiors and East London setting may be misleading, this is one of the best wine bars in London. Perfect for a date night or for trying some of the world’s best wines at a reasonable price, this Hackney Road spot is set to keep me trudging along this stretch of road come the weekend.