It’s the hottest day of the year so far and rather than sit in a mangy beer garden on the Aldgate roundabout, I’ve been invited to Sauterelle. It’s as hot as Dante’s seventh circle of hell, and I have to sit INSIDE?
Sticky armpits aside, Sauterelle, the Royal Exchange restaurant, is one of the Square Mile’s best-kept secrets. Everybody knows the Royal Exchange café; an elegant cluster of tables underneath a high rotunda. But Sauterelle, part of the brilliant D&D chain, is perched on the first floor, underneath the traditional arches. In essence, it’s hawt in every way.
A cool glass of champagne is the answer to an off-the-richter-scale thermostat, however. Sauterelle’s balcony bar overlooks the suits below – this is a place to see, and be seen. (Although, it could be that the café and bar was so crowded due to the Olympic screen erected on the ground floor.) Barely three steps from Bank tube station, you might expect a supercharged City clientele – but refreshingly, it’s anything but: there’s an obviously loaded man with young female concomitant and a set of older hens, but that’s it.
In a very un-City move, head chef Arnaud Delannay has launched a market menu – a sharing menu for two, focusing on the restaurant’s trademark fresh ingredients. There’s sea trout, chicken and fresh strawberries to share. IT guy and I go against the grain and plump for the a la carte menu: lobster ravioli and scallops to start, with a delicious surprise middle course of fresh trout.
But as always, the mains really are the star of the show. By this time sweat is beading on our foreheads, but we’re too hungry to care: a rib-eye steak (IT guy) and tender salt marsh lamb (me), encased with borlotti beans and salsa verde, slid down a treat. A specially-made chocolate brownie and slightly bitter apple tart tatin finished off a veritable sweat fest, with the dampness from the champagne not helped by a temperature worthy of the Middle East. (Exaggerate much?)
Still, despite the heat, Sauterelle has a certain aural quality: cheers for the Olympics, and City café chit-chat echoes around the Royal Exchange. Just don’t visit on the hottest day of the year, yeah?