Restaurant reviews | Mission, Bethnal Green

Restaurant reviews

Mission, Bethnal Green

What is a large palm tree doing growing in the heart of Hackney? Let alone INSIDE a building (a converted warehouse set in a railway arch). Well, it’s the latest outpost of hipster winebar Sager & Wilde, now with a fully-fledged restaurant, Mission.

The name is a nod to the time owners Michael and Charlotte Sager-Wilde spent in San Francisco - the Mission being a super-cool neighbourhood in the city and the list is largely based on hard-to-find Californian wines.

Michael, dramatically shorn of his trademark ponytail, presides over the bar, dispensing ‘three sip’ cocktails (a dangerously affordable £4.50) and conjuring up rare bottles like rabbits out of a hat. My neighbour at the bar orders a bottle of Randall Grahm’s 2002 Le Cigare Volant (gorgeous) with his grouse. "You got another bottle?" he asks. "Nah, only the one. You know how we roll." It’s all impossibly hip.

He (Michael, not the man at the bar) produces a series of half-filled glasses to test our tasting skills. What is this pale fragrant liquid? Not pinot noir but a Loire Saumur. The next - a dense damsony red I correctly place in California - turns out to be a Stag's Leap Petite Sirah.

There’s some lovely fizz - an elegant 2009 Schramsberg blanc de noirs and an extraordinary deep-coloured, rich, slightly funky1992 Beaux Hauts extra brut from the Russian River Valley that barely sparkles. Not for everyone - you need to go with an open mind about wine should taste like.

By this time we’re ravenous so we ask Michael to choose some starters for us. A whole globe artichoke with warm bagna cauda (a great way to serve it), deep-fried, crumbed grouse legs and figs like a posh KFC, and some excellent nduja arancini. Now we’re trying two gorgeous glasses of chardonnay - which turn out to be a 2012 from the Sandford and Benedict vineyard made by the Chanin Wine Company and a 2007 Raveneau Chablis from that night’s ‘Shizzle’ list of rarer more expensive bottles though to be honest they’re all pretty rare. And expensive. No, that’s not fair. There are wines by the glass for as little as £4.50 and most fall under £10

Next two super-Tuscan-style wines arrive to go with a platter of lamb ‘Scottadito’, a vast pile of deliciously charred herby lamb chops straight off the grill (scottadito means blisteringly hot). They’re served with some ridiculously good roast new potatoes that manage to be soft and crisp at the same time. Meat and potatoes - the obvious foil for a fine wine though this is done with some style. There is glee behind the bar when we can’t manage to finish the chops. Staff perks.

The two wines are a young Californian Sangiovese (I forget the name*) and a superb 1991 Tiganello, on sale that night for a bargain £17.50 a glass. No wonder our bill for two is £118.50 without service - even though Michael, who we already know from Sager & Wilde, has slipped in a couple of tastes for free.

So - a fantastic place for any wine lover but a dangerous one. My advice? Sit at a table rather than at the bar where Michael will tempt you to spend far more than you should. But the bar is so much fun . . .

Mission is at 250, Paradise Row a tiny alleyway just to the left of Cambridge Heath Road, less than 5 minutes walk from Bethnal Green tube (on the central line). It's open from 6pm on weeknights and 12 on a Sunday (brunch looks promising). There’s a craft beer bar called Mother Kelly’s next door.

*It is in fact the 2011 Pergamos from the Scholium Project - a blend of Sangiovese and Merlot.

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