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The converted Victorian warehouse that houses Angela Hartnett’s Merchants Tavern used to be trailblazing Cantaloupe back in the 1990s. Some of the diners occupying its curvy leather booths might well recall those days, though they’re grown-ups now, schmoozing clients and drinking better wine. The kitchen's “solid combos” appeal to the assembled company: credible rather than cool, their classical foundations are leavened with contemporary touches and true seasonal flavours.Some dishes, such as the “dynamite” deep-fried oysters with chilli and ginger or quail with hazelnut pesto and foie gras live up to their promise, while others verge on the “polite”: our sea bream with heritage carrots and preserved lemon was one such creation, although a brown-bread parfait with kirsch-laced cherries was impeccable. For an even more relaxed vibe, eat at the kitchen counter or hit the bar for sausage rolls and cool cocktails. “These guys are good”, affirms one reader.
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17 August 2016
A Tuesday lunchtime feast which was quiet - 20% of tables filled. Hard to understand as the service from greeting to bill paying was attentive, professional and knowledgeable and the entire experience thoroughly enjoyable.
Cock/Mocktails to start were superb - a Berry Sour with Gin was just tart enough and the fresh Lemonade the best I've had (choice of still or fizzy).
We kicked off with deep fried oysters (tempura), sea-trout tartare and fresh squid with berlotti beans and Nduja. I travel far for fried oysters and was extremely happy with the result. My friend loved the tatare and we both agreed that with the additional Nduja given us, the squid dish was lifted dramatically - and this is where the place differentiates itself from others. We were asked how we liked the dishes and I merely commented that a little more Nduja in the squid would have been great. no sooner said than the chef himself arrived with a small pot to add to our own.
We followed with a pork schnitzel, belly pork bites with Kohlrabi (my favourite of all our dishes) and leeks with egg. A solid combo of delicious flavours and textures.
We wrapped up by sharing a single portion of Dolcelatte which was strong and cream. all was washed down with two 500cl carafes - one of white Rioja and the other of the red kind.
All in at GBP150.00 you cannot fault the value. Will happily return anytime, these guys are are good!
11 November 2013
The premises are a bit alternative but the cooking is pure class and expect a Michelin star next year. A truly wonderful addition to Shoreditch. We had cod with ham hock and Brill with cocoa beans as mains and both were delightful. The accompanying roast vegetables were a bit nondescript but not a disaster. Our waitress was attentive without being intrusive. A true sign that this is a restaurant of substance was the presence of Chris Corbin (Wolseley, Delaurnay, Zedel) ‘in the house’ on a Saturday night – bet he hasn't been that far from the West End in years!
21 October 2013
Shoreditch has a new gourmet eatery, Merchants Tavern. This place is a collaboration between Michelin starred Angela Hartnett from Murano (posh Italian in Mayfair) and some local boys from Canteen (covert dining hall in a school). First impressions from outside and as you enter this polished converted warehouse and apothecary are impressive, but there is something amiss. This place is lacking that Shoreditch creative cool vibe that you escape central London for. We had just passed a heavily guarded private party in some graffitified marquis with pumping beats around the corner, which was more fitting to this area and more alluring. My friends felt it was more New York East side, probably because of the cavernous space, brick walls and slick detailing. The service was also a little up and down, forgotten ingredients in specials, no bread before appetiser, although we did get a history lesson on ‘Treviso’ from a characterful waiter.
The food was in a word good but not wondrous. There is a good mix of gourmet favourites, scallops, duck, venison etc all in slightly unusual combinations and presented perfectly. My starter of quail with nutty hazelnuts and fois gras hit the mark. My main of mallard was a little on the bijou side but crisped to perfection. My friend who is connoisseur of all things carbohydrate was more than satisfied by the velvety creamy mash. Fish dishes were also a bit small but there was finely roasted piece of bright white sea brill. Desserts were slightly underwhelming. All in all, the food ticked all the boxes but did not make me whoop with delight which I would expect to do at £65/ head. Would I go back? maybe after the initial teething problems settle and with a big group.
15 October 2013
We went to a soft opening of Merchant's Tavern and we enjoyed it, but certainly a lot was learned in the soft opening days. On our return we started with the Roast Quail, hazlenut pesto, remoulade and Fois Gras, the tastes had certainly been there the first time but now the presentation was gorgeous. We both opted for the Roast Loin of Venison with braised red cabbage and sprout tops – absolutely delicious and once again beautifully presented. For deserts we had the Rum Buba and an absolutely stunning Blackcurrant Posset.
The ambience is relaxing but with a buzz, although there are banquettes around the outside of the dining area, there is plenty of room between tables. The wine list gave a good selection with an interesting price range and it was good to see that they offer carafes for when a bottle is too much. Service was both attentive and informative.
We very much look forward to returning for dinner when apparently it takes on a different perspective.
Another winner for Angela!
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