There's a Basque restaurant in town and boy do they do a mean steak!
We were recently invited along to the press and food bloggers launch of Sagardi, a brand new Basque restaurant which has opened in Shoreditch. A short walk from Old Street tube station and we were soon outside Sagardi where we were greeted by a large glass fronted exterior, it looked quite stylish and was the sort of place you would be drawn to when walking by.
Upon entering the restaurant you are immediately faced with the SARGARDI butcher, this is where the fine cuts of beef known as "Txuleton" are prepared, quite an impressive area!
There are two varieties of beef to choose from, Vaca (ex dairy cows) and Buey (Galician ox). The cuts of beef come from herds that are a minimum of six years old and the beef is matured for between 3 to 10 weeks.
As it turns out when we ate later, the Buey that we had was 19 years old! Now you may be thinking, 19 year old beef, hang on a minute, but seriously, this cut of meat was so tasty and definitely has to be tried before you dismiss it.
The steaks, which are coated in a thick crust of salt are cooked on a central grill that was specially designed by the owner, Inaki Vinaspre. Whilst too much salt is frowned upon, in this case I would make an exception, it really adds to the flavour of the beef (don't worry, by the time it is cooked, the steak isn't still coated in thick salt!).
There is a bar area with tall tables and a vast selection of Donosti-style pintxos (basically a piece of bread, topped with a delicious concoction of loveliness) on display, you help yourself to whatever takes your fancy and to be honest we could have just stayed put and stuffed our faces!
I really liked this area of the restaurant and could see myself popping in at lunchtime or after work for a plate of pintxos and a chilled glass of Basque Country cider or Basque Txakoli wine, both of which are traditionally poured from a height and only by trained professionals 😜
The restaurant itself is dominated by large chunky wooden tables and is certainly the type of place you would go to as a crowd, however I think I spied a few smaller tables perhaps for those more intimate meals. The rear of the restaurant housed a wine cellar which went from one side of the room to the other and was pretty impressive, I certainly don't think you would be spoilt for choice as to what to drink! Oh and did I mention the Basque fishing boat hanging upside down over the central area!
After stuffing and quaffing in the bar area we then sat for dinner, at this stage I was thinking that perhaps I should get some trousers with elastic in the waistband!
We were served a simple straightforward menu but one that was packed with flavour, I especially loved the heirloom tomato salad, the Green Ibarra chilli peppers and the grilled morcilla (that's black pudding to you). Everything is flown in daily from farms and coastal suppliers in San Sebastián and boy could you taste the freshness.
The star of the show was without a doubt the steak, this comes on a huge platter from which you all help yourself, again, this lends to the group type of vibe. Some people may look at the steak and be put off by the fat, don't be, the fat was OMG tasty! The meat is pretty rare, but at the end of the day when you have a fabulous piece of meat this is how it should be eaten. That said, the well done crispy end bits were equally as tasty. The steak, given that it was 19 years old was packed with flavour, was not tough in the slightest and was a complete joy to eat, again, that salt crust really enhanced the flavour. By the time we worked our way through this bad boy we had a serious case of the meat sweats!
The meal ended with cheese, truffles and Tolosa butter and almond cigarillos, all very nice however that went out the window when the gin trolley was rolled over to us, this was a nice touch, the only thing I would say is a Spanish gin would have been good rather than the usual Bombay Sapphire, but that's just a small point and hey, I soon knocked it back.
All in all I have to say I'm glad Inaki has brought SAGARDI to the UK. We ate some seriously tasty food and drank some lovely local cider and wines. A great looking restaurant, a good vibe to the place and if in the area I would definitely return for a second go at that amazing steak! (oh, they do fish as well!), this is certainly my style of dining.
For further information see www.sagardi.co.uk
Sagardi Basque Country Chefs - Butcher Imanol Jaca talks about the philosophy, quality and traditions that are the foundations of this new restaurant.