Nuno Mendes, formerly of Viajante and currently of Chiltern Firehouse fame, has opened this Portuguese restaurant in the nice half of Spitalfields Market. Like you, I’m not particularly au fait with Portuguese cuisine either, but it turned it to be rather brilliant.
We arrived on a Saturday lunch and were only offered an outside table which was pleasant, apart from the paper napkins. I hate it when inside get the real deal but outside are left to suffer with paper towels!
We started with some tinned fish, which far surpassed anything I could have expected. Monkfish with fennel (£7) came dripping in a luxurious olive oil that was good enough to drink. The fish, both soft and firm had an exquisite texture and fresh taste.
Prawn parcels (£5 for two) were crispy deep-fried little numbers, filled with a subtly spicy prawny concoction which was most delightful.
Bisaro pork tartare (£9) was a real winner; the chunks of pork had been ever so lightly grilled giving them a real smokey flavour. The cozido broth, that was in plentiful proportion, was so good I shall regret not asking for more bread to soak it up for the rest of my days.
Corvina with picadito algarvio (£14) seemed a little expensive for the portion size, but then again, Nuno apparently gets the Portuguese white fish delivered from the Algarve by DHL (as read on the CODE website) which don’t come cheap. The flavour was that of summer on a plate.
The next one wasn’t for me; Alheira, spring tomato and watercress (£9). The chopped up sausage is made using wet breadcrumbs which gave it the oddest texture, like that of glue, which I found hard to swallow. It was a shame as the flavour was great.
And then there’s the sandwiches, like pimped up toasties from Costa (in a good way). Beef prego with prawn paste (£9) and pork bifana (£8) are likely to be the best toasties, sorry grilled sandwiches, you’re ever likely to eat.
The pudding that is fast becoming more Instagrammed than Shackfuyu’s French toast, the abade de priscos and port caramel (£5), was rather outstanding. A thick creamy finger down the middle of the plate sprinkled with salt then surrounded by a tangy port sauce made for an indulgent treat to end it all.
So yeah, Portuguese food is really rather good. Taberna do Mercado is still finding its feet mind, they’ve only just started manning the phones and the service, although friendly, could do with a bit of brushing up. But once they iron out a few creases, and give the outside tables proper napkins, it’s going to be pretty darn lovely.