Review: Sardine, making Provençal cuisine cool again

Hoxton’s Micawber Street is lined with low-rise flats of various ilks with a McDonald’s drive-through sitting on its western end. When strolling down it, I frowned skeptically at Google Maps. But there it was, southern French restaurant Sardine. Its location shares the similarity of unexpectedness with head chef Alex Jackson. Jackson had not even considering becoming a chef until after university he took a waiting job at Stevie Parle’s Loft Kitchen. One thing led to another, and now he’s causing quite the stir on the restaurant scene. Sardine is Jackson’s first solo venture, after learning his craft under Parle at Loft Kitchen and later Rotorino.

Sardine has an airy, cool dining room, a welcome refuge from the scorched streets outside. The venture begins for me with a French 75, for when in Rome…Sardine’s French 75 is a sharp, refreshing and ultimately chic cocktail, that makes me feel like I might gain those qualities by drinking it.

It was the morning after the night before for my friend, so naturally he requested a Bloody Mary. For what respectable brunch menu doesn’t have this?

On to the curing of my own, as I tucked in to the cured duck breast. Here was an exact balance of flavours, the rich duck breast and earthy girolles were offset by the acidity of dressed green beans. Crunch came with the walnuts, making this overall a very refreshing meal. This is the dish to opt for when you’re on the smug flex about feeling fine on a Saturday.

If you are in need of assistance, then you’ll do well to follow in my friend’s footsteps and order the steak onglet, complete with the potato beignet and cep sauce. This was an unashamedly rich, filling and fixing dish that will restore you – at least partly – to former glory.

Whilst enjoying the Sardine experience it becomes evident to me: Provençal cuisine is cool again. Just like Craig David made his triumphant comeback, Provencal cuisine has done the same. This time reinvigorated not by the slick beats of Kaytranada, but rather the beets of Alex Jackson. Jackson isn’t afraid of bringing classic dishes back to our palate, re-imagined. In a time when so much of the cuisine scene is over-complicated gimmicks, it’s all a very chilled affair to go unapologetically old school.

Exemplary to this was the nectarines, Parma ham, ricotta and honey. Dishes like this have spent long enough away from the spotlight that their return feels like a new entrée in itself.
But there you have it, Jackson is following his own lead rather than current trends. Sardine is testament to this, and worthy of our time and taste buds.


15 Micawber Street, London, N1 7TB

About Lucy Rowe

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