Merchants Tavern 36 Charlotte Road, London, EC2A 3PG (Soft Launch)
Monday, October 14, 2013 at 12:09PM
Alice Kearney

I went during their soft launch, which can make a review slightly redundant as you never know how things might change due to feedback.  However this may give a good indication of what they are trying to achieve.


They are housed in the heart of Spitalfields just a stone’s throw from the Rivington grill and Tramshed. The building is vast with 2 areas a large horse shoe bar area and then further back is the restaurant and open kitchen at the back.  The restaurant layout is reminiscent of Hawksmoor Air Street, albeit a smaller version. They have similar oyster shaped booths around the room.  We however were seated between the open kitchen and the waiters station which was not the most comfortable. It was that little bit tight and as every waiter came to the station regularly you felt quite harried, I wouldn’t want to sit here at a full service (it was only a third full for this soft launch). This may well be something they are testing to see whether or not it works.

Onto the food, due to a kitchen glitch we got 5 starters, so between us got a good selection of starters. I chose grilled quail with fois gras, it was hugely flavoursome which is not hard to do with fois gras but the combination of the quail and endive really set it off. All the starters but one were well received, the exclusion were the figs and prosciutto, this dish relies on its ingredients and although by no means bad they did not have the depth of flavour needed for a such a simple dish.  I think this may partly be due to it the ham being too cold, it had little perfume.

For mains the boys had decided to share a pork loin with Girolle Persillade, this was a dish for 2, but there was some disappointment when it arrived with 1 chunky slice of pork each. For growing lads, this looked quite meagre, however the flavour and tenderness were there – no stringy tough pork.  I had the roast Brill with coco beans and anchovy bread sauce, the description sounds more exotic then it was, but that is not to say it was not delicious. The fish was of a decent size but I really could have done with more beans to bulk it out.

Then to the desserts, we ordered 5 so that we could taste the full range of the dishes. All were competent but none really stood out for me.  Finally we had 2 plates of cheese to share. All the cheeses were delicious but why do restaurants give you 3 biscuits which will never be enough for the amount of cheese. There was some discussion about the amount of cheese versus the 10 pound pricetag, it did did look like a small portion but were more than adequate taking into account what we had already eaten.

The service was great throughout, our waiter obviously very experienced but they were also training some novice waiters hopefully they’ll have picked everything up before opening. I would not want to sit bwhere did again especially when the restaurant is full, it was just too distracting having service staff right next to our table. We did question the portion size to ask whether it was because of the 50% off, apparently not this was a deliberate move. I think they’ll have to rethink this for the main courses as for £20 I don’t think you should need to order 2/3 sides to make it up.  However on reflection accomplished cooking in sophisticated surroundings.

Talk Rating: 4/5

Square Meal

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