Rail travellers take heed. This ‘freehouse and kitchen’ is the blueprint for a future chain that will ‘revolutionise the station pub’. Out go keg beers, in come strong lagers, cask ales and two-dozen Enomatic-fresh wines by the glass including Châteauneuf du Pâpe (£27 for 250mls). Food-wise, curled-up sarnies in cling film give way to club sandwiches, eggs Benedict, Caesar salad, spinach and red lentil burgers, sea bass with mango salsa, brownies and Eton Mess cheesecake. Sadly, samplings of the ’small plates’ selection (three for £10) have been mixed: good battered fish goujons with undercooked chips; anodyne black pudding lurking inside a Scotch egg’s rubbery casing; mouth-puckeringly astringent Welsh rarebit on crumpets. Ultimately, the Merchant’s calculated déjà vu design concept feels as if a cynical spreadsheet analyst is jumping on the Brit heritage bandwagon.
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