Michael Sager, owner of Sager + Wilde on Hackney Road and Paradise Row, has announced that his company, together with Marcis Dzelzainis and Assembly Coffee, will open a third restaurant — called Fare — in Clerkenwell this spring/summer. The restaurant, which will offer “sourdough pizza served affordably all day long, healthy fare,” as well as cocktails, wine and “mindblowing coffee,” is scheduled to open in June.
“BIG NEWS,” Sager announced on Instagram, “This [pictured] is the entrance to our new site in Clerkenwell which I am opening this spring with my long time partner and cocktail guru Marcis Dzelzainis and my friends from Assembly Coffee.” The project will commence a crowdfunding cycle in two weeks.
In a call with Eater today, Sager said that Dzelzainis — and alumnus of both Tony Conignliaro’s Drink Factory and Ryan Chetiyawardana’s Lyan group — is “the best person in UK drinks at the moment.” He said he is currently responsible for “the most intelligent, tastiest, and smartest drinks.”
The restaurant, which will take inspiration from San Francisco’s Tartine Manufactory — a “faster paced version of Caravan” — will be “health-focused and health-driven, plant-based, fast casual,” Sager says. And as if to stress that it will be for everyone, he pointedly eschews the new vegan narrative, saying it will also serve pizza. But “affordably priced” pizza and “only slightly above Franco Manca prices.”
Sager says he wants to offer an affordable drinks menu. The place, he says, “has to be opened for the people in the area.” And for the office workers behind the building. “We want to give the people [in Clerkenwell] what they deserve. If we attract people from across London then that’s a bonus,” he said.
“We have to do something people understand,” he says. He also feels that he has identified a gap in the market. “Why can’t you get a pizza with an amazing drink?” he asks. “That’s what we’re taking on.” Cocktails will start around the £5 mark; while wines will begin by the glass at £3.50 or £4. Wines and cocktails will be available on draught and the bar will carbonate its own sodas and begin distilling hyrdrosols, which will be used in the sodas and nonalcoholic cocktails.
Coffee, which will overseen by Assembly — a shareholder in the business — will be roasted especially for the site. There will be a takeaway offering within the cafe space, and Sager says the only competitors in the area are Costa, Pret and Grind, with the latter’s expansion into airports across the country a sign that their status as an independent no longer really holds up. “We don’t want to be a chain,” he said.
The premises Sager and his partners have taken on are huge. In total, the site is 4,500 square feet. As well as the coffee shop, there’ll be space for 40 to 50 on the ground floor, around a horseshoe shaped pizza marble counter; a bar downstairs, and a courtyard with outside seating for 40 to 60. To have such an outside seating area in the middle of Clerkenwell is, according to Sager, “next level.”
The same landlords (Derwent) who own sites occupied by Lyle’s, Smoking Goat, Brat, Passo and Nuala approached Sager. “The site has found us, not the other way round,” he said. “And the whole offering is matched around the site.”
“We’re interested in turning this into an institution,” Sager said. “It’s the place I’ve dreamed of for the last five years.”
Meanwhile, chef Chris Leach will leave his post as head chef at Sager + Wilde on Paradise Row. Leach, a Pitt Cue alumnus and Tomos Parry’s partner at Kitty Fisher’s, introduced an entirely new, largely Italian-leaning menu at Paradise Row, gaining the restaurant a reputation for some of east London’s best fresh pasta.
Leach told Eater that he did not yet know his next move. Sager said, “Chris is moving on to new projects, we are unsure of what they are, he is certainly going travelling first to learn more about pasta.
“His amazing two sous chefs Matt and Jennie at Paradise Row are moving up the ranks and will be running the kitchen with no change to the offering: Italian dishes with a pasta focus using the best of British produce.”