Sager + Wilde, Hackney Road
Sager + Wilde’s Hackney Road wine venue is one of the most innovative and fun in London, and has helped to shift the landscape towards a different style of wine bar since it opened in 2013.
Exploring new wines
Light bites and toasties
Relaxed and comfortable surroundings
Clear of focus, ambitious and a genuine wine lover despite an air of hipster, Michael Sager aims for ‘all-encompassing diversity’ at this Edward Hopper-esque Hackney enclave, in which it is possible to lose days and nights as a fulfilled customer, plundering the exceptional, ever-changing list which, 'changes daily depending on what new and crazy stuff we are into and what old cellars we raid'.
Perch at the rugged counter constructed from illuminated pavement lights, and admire, nose and slurp authored ferments from immaculate glassware, be they top vintage Bordeaux and its ilk, 30 year-old Grand Cru Chablis and Montlouis, a thrilling collection of Beaujolais as well as a ‘Burgenland Beaujolais’, swanky Spanish, fiercely regional Italians, sweetly-priced Barbarescos and Barolos, and, handpicked in every sense, field blend South Africans, not forgetting some of the most worthwhile New Zealanders, the odd, bold wine from the Balkans, UK picks, and unsurprisingly given Sager spent several years on the West Coast of the USA, accessible vinous messages in a bottle from this agriculturally blessed shore. And that is barely scratching the surface of the stock. Look out, too, for the apricot liqueur from the Rhône, and come summer, begin your booking with a quenching white Port and tonic. Don't forget to follow Sager’s Instagram, too, for updates on what curio may about to be opened.
Low mark-ups have helped further Sager’s desire to make this exceptional venue, which genuinely is one of the world's very best wine bars, as desirable to the winemakers and suppliers who may consider Sager a friend, as it is to civilians with grape expectations, and the wine novice whose fledgling interest will be nurtured by the outstanding staff. ‘We have been becoming even more affordable to allow everyone in East London to come and drink at ours,’ Sager told WLC.
‘There is only wine, no cocktails nor much food,’ advises Sager. ‘The focus here is wine to drink by itself or with charcuterie and cheese.’ Fodder may therefore include Bayonne ham, Picos blue cow and goat's milk cheese, truffle and pecorino nuts, as well as the signature toasties, of which the japapeno and three-cheese mix is a favourite. For more substantial dishes, head over to Sager + Wilde’s restaurant and cutting-edge, influential cocktail bar sequel on Paradise Row.
By Douglas Blyde&
A big love for California and Burgundy is evident throughout, with many wines that you simply won’t be able to find in many other places. With virtuous small plates including roasted brussel sprouts, hazelnuts and soft cheese on toast, alongside muhammara with pomegranate molasses, or toasties such as hot jalapeno and Cheddar, the food offer shows curiosity and is generally wine-friendly.
Although taking one’s wine is possible, it would be somewhat like hanging one’s A-Level art project in the Louvre, given the careful curation of this list, laid out, entirely in capital letters, by region, hemisphere and colour (including ‘ORANGE’).
By Zeren Wilson