Simon Wittenberg heads to the Royal Exchange in London to experience the ambiance and offerings at Sauterelle
Located in the heart of the City of London, Sauterelle, which comes from the French word for “grasshopper”, is a smart fine dining restaurant which sits on the mezzanine level of the historic Royal Exchange between The Gallery and the Threadneedle Bar. It grants diners views of the hustle and bustle of the Grand Café and luxury boutiques below, and the magnificent architecture of the 16th century building up above.
Managed by D&D London, and recently refurbished by the Russell Sage Studio, Sauterelle is overseen by Executive Chef, Stefano Leone, and Head Chef, Piero Leone (they are not related), who have drawn inspiration from the flavours of Provence in France, and Liguria in Italy, to create today’s “sophisticated” gastronomic offering. This venue seats 60 people at a time, and at the far end, the very cosy kitchen is open for diners to see the team meticulously preparing each of the dishes. The pace of the meal is leisurely, but it’s perfectly justified, as each creation is what can only be described as a work of art, and is also, therefore a true feast for the eyes.
Featuring some new additions, the dinner menu is not long in length, but the choice is nonetheless more than adequate to get the mouth watering. Sauterelle’s hosts (in our case, the very knowledgeable Alberto) are on-hand to offer some wise words and steer you in the right direction according to your culinary preferences. To set the tone of what was to come, my dining partner was treated to an ‘amuse bouche’ (a bite-sized hors d’œuvre) of light pea and mint soup decorated with fennel pollen, pea shoot herb and a bright yellow edible flower. I sampled Porchini mushrooms and braised lentils which formed a base for the cream potato foam which was garnished with crunchy fried lentils, shavings of white truffle and a sprinkling of dried tomato and black olive powder. Both were an excellent way to kick things off.
For the starters, after an assortment of fresh bread, namely olive, rosemary and potato, sesame and poppy seed, there is a selection of shellfish, vegetable and meat-based recipes, amongst others. I headed for the Buffalo mozzarella which was characterised by a beautifully presented floral shaped disc made from the residue water of the cheese, and decorated with sparkling balsamic vinegar pearls, sea fennel and Salty Fingers. It was a sumptuous explosion of flavours because underneath lay oozing soft cheese which sat on salty anchovy infused bread. My guest settled on a spiced Angus beef carpaccio which was equally as elegant, and came adorned with truffle shavings and dried black olive.
Come the main course, and there is once again an array of concoctions to pick from. With no hesitation, thanks to my long-standing penchant for fish, I tried the blackened cod with peas and lemon, which was married perfectly with the delicate flavour of the champagne sauce. This was joined by tasty side orders of sautéed heritage carrots with orange, dill and mustard, and poached Mayan gold potato with smoked black pepper and rosemary butter. My guest tried a duo of generously-sized steak fillets dressed in red wine sauce and sheltered by Alaska leaves and butterfly red sorrel. The accompanying horseradish and rose jelly was a little overpowering in flavour, but did not get in the way of what proved to be a fabulous recipe. On a separate note, the wine list at Sauterelle is comprehensive, and Alessandro, the in-house sommelier, is there throughout to recommend the ideal pairing according to what graces your plate. We opted for a small glass of nutty Friulano from the north-eastern region of Italy, which disappeared with ease.
For dessert, there is plenty to satisfy those with a sweet tooth, whilst for guests who prefer to finish on a savoury note, Sauterelle offers an array of Beillevaire French Cheeses. Before we tackled the final chapter, we were given a surprise taster served in glass Jing Tea cups. It turned out to be a very effective and well thought out mix of lemon granita, Limoncello liqueur and micro basil, with a hint of chilli powder just to give it that little extra kick. I then had the apple and calvados compote which was topped with a lavender crumble and viola ice cream, which certainly went well together, but was a bit too “floral” in flavour for my liking. My guest closed her meal with a refreshing and beautifully arranged fruit salad with thin flakes of meringue, and sorbet.
Sauterelle is not the quietest of eateries if you are after something that is intimate and romantic. However, for those who wish to impress colleagues, clients or friends with excellent service and exquisitely prepared and presented food with a Mediterranean twist, then this is certainly the place to head for when in the City.
Sauterelle – Where and How?
Sauterelle is located at the Royal Exchange, London EC3V 3LR, United Kingdom. For more information, or to make a reservation, visit www.royalexchange-grandcafe.co.uk/at/sauterelle-bank, or call +44(0)20 7618 2480.
Open Monday to Friday from 12pm to 2.15pm, and from 6pm to 11pm. It is closed Saturday and Sunday.