We Test Drive Sapling in Dalston - young, fresh and very quaffable

chouxParmesan choux with wild garlic cream

So what do we need to know about Sapling?

This rather beautiful new wine bar/restaurant is the brainchild of local man Bob Ritchie (well, he's local now, but actually grew up on a dairy and beef farm up in Ayrshire. General manager and sommelier is Dan Whine - who trained up at Conran Restaurants, Liberty Wines and is also a winemaker in his own right. And in charge of the kitchen is Head Chef Jon Beeharry who comes here via Bistroteque, Market Café, and Rita’s at The Prince Arthur.

Where is it?

On the same stretch of the Kingsland Road in Dalston as Chick n Sours and Rotorino. Nearest stations are either Dalston Junction or Haggerston.

So where should we meet friends for a drink first?

Take your pick - for cocktails you've got the wonderful Three Sheets and Untitled just down the road. Or if you're after a decent pub The Fox on the corner has a good selection of craft beers and ciders to choose from.

terrineChicken terrine with trofie onion and sumac

Where's the best place to sit?

Depends on who you're with. If you need a quiet chat with a friend (or you're on a date) then the teeny train-style tables for two along the side of the room would be perfect. There are two tables for larger groups either side of the door or if you're after somewhere more convivial, the central group table looked a lot of fun.

And what's on the menu?

The wine is the focus here, but there's plenty to enjoy food-wise too. The menu is loosely split into the Kitchen (dishes being served up the chef and his team) and the Larder - a range of cheese and charcuterie. Those cheese and cured meats change regularly although you'll probably find something from the likes of Cobble Lane Cured or Hackney's Black Hand on there, and there's a range of pasteurised and unpasteurised cheeses including a wonderful Boerankaas 2-year aged Gouda which came with a Newton & Pott beetroot pickle.

Apparently, chef Jon's gougeres have been an early crowd pleaser and we can see why. Our mound of Parmesan gougeres came with a piquant whipped wild garlic cream (£3.50) and we could have easily sat sipping wine and eating these all night. Of the main plates we had, our favourites were a dish of tiny Jersey royals served up with monk's beard and pangritata - a riot of flavour and texture (£5.80) and a really good chicken terrine, rolled in sumac and served with a roasted tropea onion (£9).

crumbsJersey royals with monk's beard and pangritata

But what about the wine?

Honestly, I can't say we've enjoyed a sommelier selection this much for AGES. From the gorgeous glass of grower Champagne Roger Coulon (£8.90) to the organic and biodynamic Dolcetto d'Alba from Barolo vineyard GD Vajra (£6.70 and which Dan himself helped make), everything we tried was just so gorgeous.

If this small selection is indicative of the list quality as a whole, we're going to need to come back to slowly work our way through it. Price wise, if you're after a bottle of something, prices look more punchy with most bottles in the £35-£50 mark.

Overall thoughts

An utterly lovely addition to the Kingsland Road drag, and - dare we say it - a little more elegant too than some of its fellow spots, Sapling's going to do rather nicely, we suspect.

dessertSet cream, Yorkshire forced rhubarb with bergamot and blood orange


More about Sapling

Where is it? 378 Kingsland Road, London E8 4AA

What are the opening hours? Initial opening hours will be Thurs/Fri 5.30-11pm, Saturday 12pm-11pm, Sunday 12pm-6pm

Find out more: Visit their website or follow them on Twitter @saplingdalston.


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