Taberna do Mercado 22

Old Spitalfields Market, 107b Commercial Street , London, E1 6BG

Taberna do Mercado Moorgate London Restaurant Portuguese

SquareMeal Review of Taberna do Mercado

One Spitalfields local feels lucky to have some “Nuno Mendes magic” around the corner from his office, although this Portuguese tapas joint is a far cry (geographically and gastronomically) from the chef’s celeb-magnet Chiltern Firehouse. Buzzy and intimate, with “fairly neutral” decor and fair prices, it doles out a funky mix of charcuterie, home-cured fish and varied small plates with some seriously random (but “amazing”) flavour combinations. We’re sold on the moreish green bean fritters and the expertly cooked octopus and pepper salad, but the line-up also extends to tinned Dorset char with fennel and lemon, beef prego sandwiches with prawn paste and wild garlic, fascinating cheeses and wonderfully weird desserts such as the oddly delicious abade de priscos (made from pork fat and caramel, steamed egg yolk and sugar). Service can be a little hectic, but busy crowds and content stomachs are testament to Mendes’ commitment to exciting Portuguese fare.

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Food & Drink: 6.0

Service: 6.0

Atmosphere: 7.3

Value: 5.3

Food & Drink: 2.0

Service: 3.0

Atmosphere: 3.0

Value: 2.0

David H. platinum reviewer 05 July 2015

Its good to hear of a new restaurant opening that seems to create a stir. The press reviews of Taberna do Mercado have been very enthusiastic. In the last few years we've had Dabbous, Roganic/Fera and Lima that can claim to be game-changers to some extent and are certainly restaurants that I wouldn't want to go a year without visiting. So its sad to say that for us at least, this new restaurant isn't nearly worth the hype. There were a couple of thoughts in my mind as we made our way to Spitalfields. First, what's all this "small plates" thing really about? And why should I prefer this to a starter/main/dessert structure? We've been to a number of small plate/sharing plate restaurants without ever feeling that this is the way we really want to eat. Will Taberno da Mercado help us see the light? Let me comment on this right away. Like most places serving small plates, the order and frequency of delivery here is to suit the kitchen not you. The tables are very often too small to comfortably hold the food you've ordered at the pace they choose to deliver it. But at least the answer to my question emerged during this meal. The purpose of small plates is to extract from each customer the most money in the shortest time, reducing the occupancy time ( without reducing the spend per customer) so the restaurant can sell the space again and again. The second concerned just how "different" this The Taberna would prove to be, and if it were different, would it be in a good way? We'd been put off Nuno Mendes' Viajante by a number of people whose opinions we respect telling us that the food was self-indulgent and not always pleasant. On the other hand three visits to his "Corner Room " went pretty well until my wife chose fish dishes that neither menu nor staff gave any indication were raw- which is not to her taste- and we didn't go back after that. Today we chose 8 dishes from several different sections of the menu. Of these two required little more than assembly ( ham & bread and a sandwich of beef fillet) and tasted OK. The two starters of runner bean fritters in a clam juice sauce, and prawn rissois, were innovative and tasty- if not as ecstatically wonderful as I've seen in some press reports. The two fish dishes served in tiny open cans ( cod with pimento and scallops in brown butter) were not terribly interesting and in the case of the scallops it didn't seem to me that the butter was browned at all - more just clarified. The remaining two small plates of alheira (poultry sausage) and bisaro pork tartare were not special, flavour-wise and both enjoyed rather odd textures. So in general a bit mixed with me feeling kinder than my wife. The food is different in the sense that assembly items aside I hadn't experienced dishes like this before. But I do feel compelled to add that being different is not the same as being excellent. I actively enjoyed about half of what I ate today with the rest being just OK. I can recall the first time I ate at Lima, at Dabbous, at Roganic, all of which were very different from other options at that time available. In each case it was clear that this food wasn't just different but remarkably good too. I didn't have anything like those feelings today. It's not just the food that's a bit strange. There's no menu on the website, nothing to tell you what you might eat or how much things will cost. Having made a reservation for lunch at least I could ask them to email a menu, which they did, albeit that much of it is in Portuguese so you still need the wait-staff to describe pretty much all the food. But if you walk in, you'll wait right to the door of the restaurant before your first glance of a menu or prices. It strikes us as unnecessarily arrogant to assume that people will want to go sight unseen? Is it hard to put a menu or the internet? When we got there the "greeter" was on the phone and positioned herself so that it was difficult for us to enter, despite that there were other members of staff around. Her "message " was clear-you have to wait for me-. After 5 mins of this we walked in and eventually were given a "table" at the end of a long table for 6. We asked for- and got - a proper table for 2 but they were plainly quite happy to give us a poor table when there were better options available. I question the attitude here- if one accepts as a given that their objective is to get customers to their table whilst feeling good about their decision to eat there. Meanwhile, the wait-staff who took and delivered our orders and who we paid were pleasant and efficient. Finally you need to go to this restaurant knowing that the environment and the food is very casual. It doesn't look like or taste like gourmet food. Its not a place to go for an occasion, or quiet conversation. Our 8 dishes and a bottle from the cheaper end of the list cost £93 with service and we were out in an hour, easily, having eaten enough albeit too quickly. Given what we ate its a stretch to describe that as good value, and to be honest if I'd queued for an hour or so to eat food like this and then been asked for £93 I might feel a little more strongly. I can't see us wanting to go back. It is different, but "different" doesn't necessarily mean great.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 5.0

Value: 3.0

Yolanda B. bronze reviewer 28 May 2015

I booked this for a lunch for myself and two friends to try out because it was Nuno Mendes' new restaurant. Just before going for lunch I read the one and only review on here and was put off! But then thought I should definitely try it myself first! The restaurant is in a great location as I love the hustle and bustle of Spitalfields Market and the atmosphere in the restaurant is nice and relaxed and inviting. Not knowing anything about Portuguese wine we just went for the cheapest which was nice and light and refreshing and went down far too easily! To eat we had the Runner bean fritters (surprisingly delicious!), the half Queijaria Simoes DOP (cheese and bread - pleasant and a good filler), Cod 'House Tinned Fish' (really tasty with a lovely sauce which we kept to dip more bread in), Chicory salad (it was nice although not what I was expecting, it had a tomato/chilli dressing on - the dish was nice although if I was to go again not sure I would have it), Alheira, spring tomato & watercress (a chicken sausage that was actually really tasty, and handy as one of our trio was jewish so we limited the pork dishes), Cuttlefish and Pigs trotters (very tasty and a lovely sauce with it), Cod and Cod tripe acorda (I loved this, the fish was cooked just under so still slightly rare in the middle but was a really refreshing dish) and the Beef Prega Sandwich to finish - this tasted amazing at the end with mustard and the homemade chilli oil that had a nice kick to it and was my favourite part of the meal.....although could've been due to me having had the majority of our wine throughout the meal! We didnt go for dessert as the other two people I was with are not dessert people, so I got a hummingbird bakery on the way back! I felt full up when we left but not overfull, I was worried I would leave hungry. The whole meal including service came to £35 each which I dont think is too bad for a good lunch with friends. Overall I think it is definitely worth a visit, the food was delicious, the service good and its a nice spot to waste away and afternoon over wine and food. n.b. I read somewhere that if you go to the toilet you get snacks whilst you are waiting (the toilet is in the kitchen, yes you wait there whilst they are cooking!!) - but I didn't get any snacks so my only disappointment was that!

Food & Drink: 2.0

Service: 2.0

Atmosphere: 3.0

Value: 2.0

Jerome B. 19 May 2015

Being located in trendy Spitalfield Market clearly the surrounding and atmosphere is the pull. For such a small “Taperia” this place is overstaffed and no one knows what the other is doing. White wine served at room temperature, ordered portions arrived twice, we were served dishes we never ordered and eventually find out they were our neighbors order. Menu choice is restricted to cold cuts (about which waiting staff have no idea what they are), “house tinned fish preserves” (which seem just marinated fish bits filled into empty sardine-tins behind the bar counter) and a few small warm tapas (no rocket science, not even tasty and do not justify the prices at all). The culinary experience leaves a lot to be desired and is not worth the trip. Conclusion: light lunch for two with 3 glasses of white wine 2 small portions of cold cuts and two small warm dishes + service charge = £90. For something one can knock up at home with a loaf of decent bread and a good tin of Sardines I don’t think there is anything worth coming back.


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