Buttery… garlicky…. herby….. Just imagine all the most delicious flavours of French cooking, combined in perfect seasonal dishes, and that’s exactly what you’ll find at cool new Old Street opening Sardine.
With head chef Alex Jackson (formerly of Rotorino) in charge, the modern interior is all light wood panelling and zinc tables. But there’s a nod to the food’s rustic influences (a delightful blend of Provence and the Languedoc) in the brightly coloured tiles decorating the counter of the open kitchen, the communal table in the centre of the restaurant and the simple glass vases of vibrant late summer purple and orange flowers.
The dishes on offer focus on the freshest of ingredients – while you peruse the menu you’re given a pre-dinner bowl of perfectly ripe peas-in-the-pod to nibble on, and you can order a snack of freshly picked radishes to dip in crème fraiche sprinkled with bottarga (an inspired combination). Must-have starters include Chargrilled tomatoes stuffed with pork and veal and flavoured with tarragon and cream and a bowel of Clams, peas and saucisson sec in a delicious buttery sauce. The stand out main however is the Lamb a la Ficelle (cooked over a wood fire) – rare roasted meat, served with white beans (cooked to retain the ideal ‘bite’) and green sauce (with a subtle hint of anchovy). We’d also recommend the Hake (flakey meat with with lovely crisp skin), served with salty samphire, fleshy and flavoursome tomato and a dollop of aioli. Both go brilliantly with a side of nutty Domino potatoes – finely sliced, and oven roasted with olive oil, butter and bay leaves. Divine.
For pudding, we simply have to mention that French favourite – Crêpe served with stewed cherries and plums as well as Apricot kernel ice cream (the perfect late summer pudding), and we also applaud the wonderful Apricot and brown butter tart – wonderfully light pastry filled with apricots which are far from over-sweetened, but still retain a lovely hint of tartness and are ideal with crème fraiche.
For more information or to book a table visit sardine.london.
Below, Alex has kindly shared this fabulous Apricot and brown butter tart recipe with YOU.co.uk…
Apricot and brown butter tart
Adapted from a Chez Panisse recipe; this also works very well with plums or prunes d’Agen.
FOR THE PASTRY
350g plain flour
225g butter, cubed
100g icing sugar
3 egg yolks
Pinch of salt
1 Combine the above ingredients, minus the egg yolks, in a food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Try not to overwork. Add the egg yolks one by one. Pulse mix until the pastry starts to come together.Store in the freezer until needed.
2 When needed, grate the frozen mixture into a (12 or 14 inch) fluted tart shell. Press into shape with your finger, trying not to overwork the pastry: it should be 2mm thick on the base. Return to the freezer to harden.
3 Blind bake at 170C for 12 minutes or until golden brown.
FOR THE FILLING
6 apricots, stoned and quartered
Juice of 1 lemon
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
Pinch of salt
2 dessert spoons brandy
3 dessert spoons double cream
4 dessert spoons flour
1 Brown the butter in a pan. When it smells nutty, take off the heat and add the lemon juice to stop the cooking. Allow to cool.
2 Beat the eggs, sugar, vanilla and pinch of salt in a mixer with a balloon whisk for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture forms a thick ribbon when dropped from the beater. Make sure the eggs are nice and thick before adding the rest of the ingredients.
3 With the machine on lowest speed, slowly pour in the brown butter, then the brandy and cream. Finally, add the flour.
4 Arrange the apricots in the baked tart shell and pour over the mixture – the recipe above makes enough for a 14-inch tart shell, so if using a smaller one, don’t overfill.
5 Bake the tart at 170C for 40 minutes, turning halfway through the cooking.
6 Allow to cool. Serve with high-quality crème fraîche.
By Rosalind Lowe