Basement Sate ~ Ready to be Loved


The thing about falling in love is, it's not necessarily a wham-bam thank you ma'am, head over heels, love at first sight experience. Sure, it can be - but sometimes love may be a slower burn. For some it's about gently peeling away the layers and discovering more depth, until before you know it - you've fallen under some subtle spell that's utterly captivated you.

Of course, one also needs to be ready to love and be loved. That takes experience, heartbreak and euphoria - the roller coaster of life - to arrive at a place where one is ready for a deep and meaningful relationship.

Basement Sate is ready for a deep and meaningful relationship, with those who truly appreciate the very best in cocktails and patisserie.

Before we relay our altogether splendid experience at Basement Sate, let's start with some basics - the location at 8 Broadwick Street next door to Agent Provocateur, used to be The Players Bar - a well known Soho haunt. An understated door - thankfully without any brash signs - opens to a staircase that leads down into what must be one of London's great discoveries.

The feel is an unforced mix of wood and leather that is at once cosy, relaxed yet sophisticated and grown-up.

The concept behind Basement Sate sounds straight forward enough - specialise in pairing desserts and cocktails in equal measure and do it exceptionally well. But how often does one hear a simple concept only to be underwhelmed - well, that's not the case with Basement Sate - rather we were overwhelmed and delighted. We will return to their underlying philosophy - but first - what cocktails and desserts would you like to order? 

There's a relatively varied menu - but not so long as to smack of lacking great attention to detail. There's only so much room on a menu, so the succinct ingredients lists hardly do justice to the drinks and desserts. There's not really enough space to tell you about how even the syrups used in some of the cocktails are home made, with expert attention combining carefully sourced ingredients. The menu would be a tad too cluttered if it explained that the cherry sauce in a particular dessert was in fact the combination of three kinds of cherry for just the right balance of sweetness, depth of flavour and sourness.

Similarly, there's not really enough room on the menu to let a humble customer know that the Chef de Patisserie has worked at some of the finest establishments in Paris and London, and that when you try one of her Macarons you're in fact enjoying the specialist process she learned whilst at Pierre Hermé~where they practice the Italian process for making Macarons.

But let's come back to all of that wondrous attention to detail shortly - for now - what would you like to order? We opted for 3 pairings of desserts with cocktails, recommended to us by the knowledgeable Pierre.

We started with a Take It Slow - listed on the menu as sloe gin, umeshu, vanilla syrup and absinthe - which we paired with a dessert playfully named a Kinder Surprise and which the menu had down as brownie, milk chocolate and tonka whipped cream, caramelised hazelnut praline foam and caramelia pearls. Now you may think that already sounds extraordinarily appetising and complex - but you don't know the half of it!
The combination of a refined sloe gin with umeshu, absinthe and vanilla was delicious. Light, yet alcoholic, sweet yet sour - a fanfare for the common tongue and educated pallet alike.

Our Kinder Surprise was far removed from the well known kids chocolate egg with a plastic toy. Instead we were treated to Valrhona chocolate from L'Hermitage in Lyon. We discovered that Basement Sate's extraordinary chef Kelly Nadjarian is an expert and is incredibly passionate about chocolate - she only uses Valrhona chocolate and generously took the time to show us her kitchen and specially chosen ingredients. We had something of a crash course in chocolate and it's no accident that this was one of the best desserts we have ever enjoyed.

Added to all of the above, the Take it Slow and Kinder Surprise were an altogether perfect pairing. They may have been made for each other in heaven. We know that those who write and talk about food often go to great lengths to relay the deliciousness of a particular dish or taste experience - but this is one we so thoroughly adored that it's Ambassadors of Food's recommendation for hidden sweet treat of the year. You simply must try it or you'll be completely missing out on one of the greatest food and drink experiences available anywhere, and that's not praise we offer lightly.

The Turtle Avenue was humbly described on the menu as dark and white rum with pineapple syrup and coconut water - this we paired with a dessert called Break An Egg, which the menu explains as lime and passion fruit curd, coconut mousse and crumble, passion fruit jelly and shaved coconut. Once again this seemingly innocuous pairing was superb; an altogether harmonious marriage of tastes and textures that complimented each other perfectly.

                                                                                                                                                                                 Turtle Avenue may 'merely' include pineapple syrup - but that syrup is made in-house with love. Limes, Tonka Bean and pineapple juice are sieved through sugar and cooked with cinnamon, cloves and Szechuan pepper. The result is delicious and instantly approachable and yet with enough complexity to keep sophisticated palates pleased.
Break An Egg, combined taste and texture wonderfully - with the tart sourness of lime and passion  curd - perfectly balanced with the coconut crumble - in turn little passion fruit jellies enhanced the flavour and coconut shavings were not simply decorative but added to the dish in a meaningful way. Each mouthful was beautifully enhanced by each sip of our Turtle Avenue drink - the pineapple of one matching the coconut in the other - or the lime playing joyfully with the passion fruit. This was no wholly luck, but the expertise and thoughtfulness of someone with that rare combination of excellent skills, palate and imagination.

Our third pairing at Basement Sate was a specially created Mocktail of cherry, vanilla ginger and lime which we had alongside a Green Forest dessert - described on the menu as pistachio joconde, black cherry amarena cremeux, pistachio whipped cream and strawberries. Once again, this seemingly complex list of ingredients was in fact a simplified version that hardly does justice to what was served.


There's a certain Gallic flair for under statement, egalitarianism and an appreciation for the very best ingredients and processes in food and drink, that one can only admire.

Basement Sate is owned by Cathleen McGarry who is also co-owner of Sherry Butt in Paris. The folks who tend and manage the bar, Byly Tran and Pierre-Marie Bison have excellent credentials having been at the Prescription Cocktail Club in Paris and the Experimental Cocktail Club in London.

Pierre explained that they wanted to create something different and unique, but not obnoxious - retaining the concept of correctness and excellence they'd learned in Paris. The result should be "a taste you've never had, whilst keeping simplicity - we're there for our customers...use it in a way that doesn't give you a headache...democratise it. It's about the taste, the sum of the ingredients not the individual ingredients." Pierre went on to say "it's about the details, the warmth of the staff, the welcome, the quality of your drink, the atmosphere."

This is the essence of Basement Sate ~ truly heightened concoctions that are available to all and not made aloof or priced out of reach. 
At this point we should introduce Basement Sate's Chef de Patisserie we mentioned earlier. Kelly Nadjarian is a lady who exudes passion and conviction - her joy is infectious and her enthusiasm is only matched by her artistry and skill. Having previously worked at the Mandarin Oriental and Pierre Hermé - Kelly is no ordinary chef!  We understand that she started at Basement Sate relatively recently and this may account for why we have such deep appreciation for what she served us - because it takes time for an establishment to settle-in and find the perfect talent to compliment it's philosophy. When Basement Sate first opened in September 2014, some reviewers described it as a "pudding bar". Well that was then - but now it has come of age and is ready to love and be loved - in no small measure thanks for the astounding Kelly - whom we tip to be a culinary star.

Some details Kelly shared, shed light on how she is able to uplift dishes. For example the cherry sauce that accompanied the third of our dessert pairings - the Green Forest - contains three kinds of cherries - for sourness, acidity and sweetness - to create the perfect balance. Kelly only uses pistachio from Iran in the recipe - which comes across as the taste of fresh pistachio really should and danced on the tongue when combined with the other ingredients. We had something of a crash course in chocolate courtesy of Kelly - who graciously invited us into her kitchen and explained that she only ever uses Valrhona chocolate. We tasted the opalys white chocolate which was far less sweet than ordinary white chocolate. The Gianduja praline was so good it's addictive and the dark chocolate which was 72% cocoa had the sort of purity, snap and clean finish that only the very best gourmet chocolate can deliver.

Kelly has absolutely perfectly mastered the Pierre Hermé Italian method of making macarons. We were offered blackcurrant and yoghurt mouse macrons - used in a dessert called Purple Rain - that somehow manages to taste of zingy fresh fruit and yoghurt whilst being sweet but not cloying. They were hugely enjoyable.
It said it all really when Kelly described the people she works with at Basement Sate as "like my family."

It's clear Basement Sate can offer different moods and experiences. On the weekend when it's busy and open until 1.30AM there are DJ's - Tuesdays there is a Menu Degustation which offers a pairing of three cocktails and desserts for two to share.

In our opinion this is a practically perfect destination for a first date -  with both intimate and less intimate spaces for special experience without committing to an entire meal.

Combining a slow burn love with French savoir faire is a recipe for an altogether enchanting experience, which is exactly what we had at Basement Sate - a Soho hidden gem.

Far from feeling sated - we want more and will return soon. The sheer excellence of what we experienced, high quality ingredients, sublimely executed by people who care deeply about what they are doing, left us feeling elated. 

Basement Sate is ready to be loved.

Location: Red Door  

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