Wednesday – Sagardi Restaurant, Mikkeller, the Dundee Arms and Lee Valley YHA (Part 2)

Continuing on from part one.

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I arrived at Sagardi restaurant in Shoreditch just a little damp from the rain, even though it’s only a four minute walk from Goose Island. I had £50 to spend thanks to The Fork, otherwise I’m fairly sure I wouldn’t have thought to come here and it’s a bit out of my price range anyway. The welcome was immediate and I was offered a choice of seats, but I thought it best to dry off at the rear of the venue and I’m sure they were pleased with that. They didn’t want upmarket and decadent customers entering to see damp patrons sitting near to the door.

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Starting with still water and a pint of Txapeldun from Whym, which I didn’t even attempt to pronounce. It was a perfectly acceptable Spanish pale ale which was well kept, although it’s fair to say that this really is a restaurant which focuses on wine. The beer wasn’t much more than the water and it cost £6.50, which was perhaps the only element that seemed even vaguely keenly priced.

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My rather blurry photo of the restaurant’s interior. Not ideal, but it’ll have to do. Handily, they sat me next to a power outlet which was useful in charging my phone back up which I had managed to discharge by spending about an hour staring at it. The interior design is functional and not too over to the top, but there has been some effort made with some decorative features around the place such as the coat hangers in the shape of horses’ heads.

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And the wine collection. I’d have rather it was an extensive craft beer collection, but there we go. I accept what they had was in keeping with the theme of the restaurant.

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An anchovy and olive concoction that was brought over as some sort of amuse bouche. This was delicious, strong and clean flavours.

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I raved on about tomato bread when I went to Barcelona (indeed, I think Bev got fed up with me raving on about it) and I think I ate about six loaves of it at one restaurant. The version here was less interesting, there was no depth of flavour, the bread was too thick for my liking and it didn’t take me back to Barcelona in any shape or form.

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The pan-fried codfish in the style of Zapiain cider house, although of what relevance that last bit is I have no idea as there was no taste to the sauce. I probably should have gone for something more exotic off the menu (I had been tempted by the octopus, but it’s served in so many different ways I’m never sure how it’ll turn up), but the cod had an odd texture which only just seemed cooked. There was some texture from the garlic, but no flavours of note and it all felt rather basic and uninspiring. Not that I had paid for it, but if I had, I would have been disappointed given that this dish was priced at £22.

Just on the presentation, it’s neat, but it’s quite minimal on the middle of that plate. I accept that the Spanish style might be to serve a variety of items on different plates, but nonetheless, it does look a bit barren there. A few vegetable elements, and I don’t write that lightly, would have enhanced this a little.

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The side of Sagardi style potato wedges, which meant that I had effectively ordered fish and chips, was rather more generous in the portion size. They were cooked fine, although heavily salted, and this was really the pinnacle of the meal for me, which probably isn’t much of an advertisement for the restaurant. It mentions on the menu that it’s “grandma’s home cooking”, but I’m wondering exactly whose grandmother they’re referring to.

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There’s a butcher’s shop inside the restaurant, as part of the theme, but there were people standing in front of it and so I thought better of taking a photo, but it’s visible here through the glass windows. Overall, I left feeling uninspired and I could see why it was nearly empty inside, and they’re perhaps reliant on link-ups from companies such as The Fork. The service was polite, but the food was mediocre at best, although judging from the reviews, perhaps I didn’t order the right menu items to get the best experience.

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TFL has a two-tier pricing system which has ridiculous differences between on-peak and off-peak fares. Off-peak is between 09:30 and 16:00 and from 19:00, which means that it’s cheaper to sit in a pub and get a drink whilst waiting for 19:00. So, that’s what I did, popping to Mikkeller at Hackney Road.

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Twenty different beers, with the usual decent range of different beer styles and they had one from Adroit Theory which looked interesting.

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I don’t like the third glasses that Mikkeller use, they’re too prone to spilling, but the triple IPA brewed by them, Luxury Fries, was decadent and delicious. As an aside, I’m pleased that I know what they mean by being dry hopped now (effectively adding them later on in the brewing process), it gives me confidence than in fifteen years or so I’ll have a decent understanding of brewing. The bar isn’t the largest and it got reasonably busy, but I had a seat by the window looking out over to the church opposite.

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I didn’t go in the Royal Oak on Columbia Road, but I liked the external architecture of the pub, with some of the interior fittings surviving as well.

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A quick visit to the Dundee Arms to wait the final thirty minutes before the cheaper fares. The pub has been trading since the later part of the eighteenth century, so that’s some heritage tied up in the property.

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There’s a slightly divergent mixture of historic building, modern on-trend elements and darkness, although I still quite liked the whole arrangement. Service was friendly and immediate, the surroundings clean and comfortable. It feels something of a locals’ pub, although I mean that in the positive sense and not as a hint that I thought a riot might break out at some point.

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I have no idea about the artworks in the background, but the beer was better than I had anticipated, the Sicilian Harvest from the Five Points Brewing Company who are just down the road in Hackney. I’ve somehow not been to their taproom yet, but it looks appealing.

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Now able to tap in at the reduced rate, I was safely at Cambridge Heath station, first opened back in May 1872 and now part of the London Overground.

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At the back is a Greater Anglia train flying through, but I don’t think that the mainline trains stop here anymore.

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And I was heading to the end of the Overground line, at Cheshunt, which is where this photo was taken whilst I was waiting to cross over. The railway station here dates to 1846, but more interestingly perhaps is that nearby is where the Cheshunt Railway opened in 1825, known as the first monorail to open anywhere in the world. There’s a little bit more about this at https://www.hertsmemories.org.uk/content/herts-history/topics/transport/railways/cheshunt_railway_1825, but this makes Cheshunt one of the more important locations in the world in terms of the development of the railway in the early nineteenth century.

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I was heading here, to the YHA London Lee Valley which I’ve stayed at before. I choose to come here as although it’s miles from London, it was by far the cheapest accommodation option that I could find. It takes just over thirty minutes from London Liverpool Street making it more accessible than its geographical location might suggest. Friendly staff as ever and they have a range of food and drink to buy at reception, although it’s more expensive than at some pubs which I’ve always thought is slightly odd. I think they’re more thinking of a captive market than the price point of the people staying there.

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This YHA works on the lodges concept.

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There’s a communal kitchen in each lodge, although I had already eaten an adequate (at best) meal and so didn’t need to use anything here.

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And the private en-suite room for £40, which is very good value for London at the moment, as even the cheapest Travelodge room was twice that. Indeed, it would have been the same price for an extra person, if they want to climb up to the top of the bunk bed arrangement.

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It’s not going to win any design awards, but it was clean and comfortable.

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And, thanks to this, lovely and cool.

There was some external noise from over-excited youngsters (which I define as anyone under 30), but it had stopped by midnight and so I wasn’t too bothered, bearing in mind it is a YHA. Although, to be honest, the average age at a lot of YHAs is older than I am, which is marginally over 32. It all meant that after several weeks in Norwich, I was at least staying somewhere different.