By Jonathan Hatchman, Food Editor, @TLE_Food
With hundreds of restaurants situated within London’s square mile, it seems that all of these institutions, especially the most grandiose, fall at drastically contrasting ends of the quality continuum. Be it a prominent building housed restaurant that crows an abundance of undiluted pretension and grossly underwhelming cooking, or the type that’s so brilliant we wish to return each and every night, if only our bank balances would accommodate such extravagance. It’s only very rarely that these city restaurants will offer and experience that falls somewhere between, and as a result there’s very little middle ground between the two extremes. Fortunately, however, the experience at Sauterelle falls towards the more positive margin, even if we do have to allow an extra ten minutes just to find our way out of Bank station.
Having reopened in September following a grand refurbishment, Sauterelle is perched upon the mezzanine level of the historic Royal Exchange. Overlooking the ground-floor boutiques and grand café that lies in the centre, the interior is deeply evocative of an ostentatious French train station, having undergone a cosmetic procedure from Russell Sage Studio, the same design team that D&D have collaborated with in the last year on the remodelling of central London’s Quaglino’s and Avenue. Now, the inside of Sauterelle is a myriad of rich blue, cognac and other dark hues, while paying subtle homage to the venue’s Greek architectural heritage. During evening service, a meal for two is most likely to offer less than a fistful of copper change from four pristine £50 notes, but the food from Executive Chef Stefano Leone and Head Chef Piero Leone – who are surprisingly unrelated – is really very special. Throughout the menu, the main focus is on modern French and Italian flavours that promote sustainable produce. To start, there’s a strong focus on white truffle season within the menu, while every dish is also available with a shaving of the precious fungus for a supplementary £4.50. My friend’s foie gras terrine is both rich and smooth as butter, accompanied by a slab of brioche and watermelon mustard that brings the flavours together. Alternatively a considerably more ethical starter, ‘Butternut Squash’ features fresh gratings of the vegetable pressed into a mound and topped with the most inspired arancini of white truffle. The flavour combination is sensational, and the arancini is both perfectly sized and perfectly cooked.
On to the mains, there’s a strong focus on fish, although both my companion and I are enticed by the meatier offerings. Gloucester old spot pork fillet is wrapped in pancetta and served with Espelette chilli and Piquillo peppers, the pancetta is a little overcooked, but the potent tang from the peppers is a welcome accompaniment. The venison loin, on the other hand, is a very accomplished dish. Inside, the meat is coloured the exact same magenta hue as Barney the dinosaur, which is accompanied by sharp bitter cranberries and cherries. Alone they’re far to intense, but with the meat they work incredibly well. To finish, there’s a fine selection but by the time that the mains have left, we’re both uncomfortably full. However, we do feel that it’s necessary to carry on such an enjoyable dining trip. ‘Lemon’ is, by right, the most appropriate dish to work as a palate cleanser, featuring textures and variations of the citric fruit, laced with basil and topped with a homemade shortbread finger. Mont Blanc, on the other hand, is tasty but overwhelmingly rich, although chocolate lovers are bound to be impressed.
Surrounding some of the city’s most acclaimed (and most overrated) restaurants, the newly opened Sauterelle is one to watch, offering one of the most memorably enjoyable dining experiences within the square mile.
Sauterelle can be found within The Royal Exchange, London, EC3V 3LR.