I’d never heard of Le Mercury (a French restaurant in Islington) until a friend suggested it for a cheap and cheerful dinner. It’s been going strong for nearly thirty years and it’s so popular they’ve even opened a second restaurant down the road, Le Mercury Deuxieme, which serves exactly the same menu.
It was packed when we arrived so we were seated in the upstairs dining room. It was very….quaint. The candlelit tables were tightly packed together and topped with paper tablecloths and napkins.
The menu, laminated of course, was insanely cheap; all starters were £4.45, main courses £9.95 and desserts £3.45. To start I opted for the ravioli de la mer which was in fact a raviolo. The pasta was a bit thick and rubbery but the crayfish and lobster filling was at least seriously flavourful. The cream sauce that surrounded it didn’t taste of much else but I used the house bread to soak up every last drop so it can’t have been that bad. The poire pochée et Bleu (that’s poached pear, blue cheese and walnut salad don’t you know) was enjoyable too; a simple blend of ingredients but pleasant nevertheless.
For mains we both opted for the rib eye steak with shallot sauce. I can see why it’s only a tenner now as it wasn’t the best quality, nor was it cooked perfectly; mine was a touch chewy. Even so, I ate it all with very little complaint – partly because I was drunk but mainly because it wasn’t inedible. The sauce was sweet and well seasoned but the accompanying French fries (£1.95) could have done with a few more minutes in the fryer.
I’ve had far worse meals than at Le Mercury and for the price I don’t think it’s bad at all – it’s just not great. I wouldn’t rush back nor would I cross town with an army of friends and family but the place was packed, as was their sister restaurant, so I’m sure they’ve got nothing to worry about.