Please note, Fare has relaunched and is now serving the same pasta-led menu on both floors. This review relates to the menu that was served in the former downstairs dining room. Time Out Food editors, May 2019.
A ‘bar and canteen’ in Clerkenwell, Fare comes from the team behind popular Hackney hangout Sager + Wilde, which is known for its great-value pasta and accessible wine list. A massive two-floor space, it has a casual offering at street level, with coffee and pastries in the morning through to cocktails and pizzas for lunch or dinner. But this subterranean space – lined with wine bottles and surrounded by dangling plants – is the proper dining room. Open only from Wednesday to Saturday (upstairs is open seven days a week), it has a larger menu, made up mostly of Middle Eastern-leaning small plates.
The ricotta gnudi – the only pasta-type thing on the menu – was by far the best dish; little, cheesy dumplings served swimming in rich brown butter, with peas and mint to freshen it up. A serve of potato-like Jerusalem artichokes with caper mayo was lovely and crisp too (the waitress said it’s Fare’s version of fries), but after that, everything else missed the mark. The chickpea panisse (deep-fried chickpea flour, like a fritter) had a nice flavour but was oily and slightly soggy, then two big desserts (rhubarb with a tangy yoghurt mousse, the apple tart with white miso) had no balance of flavour. There wasn’t anything on the menu fresh and light enough to offset the heaviness of our meal, so by the end of it all, we weren’t particularly full, but our stomachs felt so coated in oil that we no longer wanted to eat.
Fare is bigger than S+W, but sadly not better. Sager + Wilde works because of its simplicity and charm, but here the concept seems confused. I would go back for a glass of wine and a snack in the street-level space, where it doesn’t feel so claustrophobic. I’d only go downstairs if there was a promise of pasta: some of that stuff from Hackney would certainly hit the spot.