After our recent enjoyable visit to Cafe Murano, we thought we’d pop along to Angela Hartnett’s other new restaurant Merchants Tavern (shouldn’t there be an apostrophe in there?) which resides in Shoreditch. It’s a joint venture between her and the guys behind Canteen.
It looked beautiful on the outside and the interior was equally beautiful. There was a large bar and lounge area at the front and a dining room complete with open kitchen out the back. Green leather banquette seating and comfy armchairs made for an enjoyably relaxing place to sit; perfect for our Sunday lunch visit.
Some sliced sourdough with unsalted butter got things off to a bit of a bland start – am I the only person who doesn’t see the point of unsalted butter? There was no salt and pepper on the table either so we couldn’t season it ourselves.
To start I opted for the wood pigeon, beetroot and celeriac salad (£9.50). It was very tasty but for nine quid I could have done with more pigeon as there was only a few slices. The small amount I did have was delicious and cooked perfectly rare and the beetroot complimented it brilliantly.
My gentleman companion went for the pickled mackerel, orange, chicory and horseradish (£9.50). The beautiful mackerel was covered with salad leaves which seemed a shame – it deserved to be on display as it was the star of the show. Its delicate pickling worked brilliantly with the heat from the horseradish and the tangy orange; it was a truly wonderful blend of flavours.
For main I ordered the roast saddleback pork, January King cabbage and duck fat roast potatoes (£23.50). This was a hearty Sunday roast and it totally hit the spot; the pork was succulent and moist and the crackling had the desired salty crunch. The cabbage had been charred giving it burnt edges which were surprisingly pleasant and not bitter. The potatoes were rich with a crunchy exterior and the little mound of apple sauce provided some most welcome sweetness.
My gentleman companion opted for the mallard, mustard greens and sarladaise potatoes (£19). The duck was served in two portions; the breast and the leg, the latter being beautifully tender. The breast however was quite chewy which was a shame and it was a tad small. The sarladaise potatoes were really tasty; crisp and buttery.
Desserts ended things on a pleasant note. The Paris brest and praline cream (£6) could have done with more cherries to cut through the sweetness but the praline cream was very moreish. The chocolate pavé with orange and kumquat salad (£7) was similar to a chocolate cheesecake and was rich yet not at all sickly. The sweet and tangy kumquat was a really great pairing for the chocolate.
Service throughout our lunch was spot on and totally faultless. Each member of staff were so friendly and attentive which really made the whole experience. The only down side to Merchants Tavern in our eyes was the pricing; it was a tad expensive for the portion sizes. The surroundings however were beautiful and the staff were perfect so we thoroughly liked the place.