Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Merchants Tavern

Modern Tavern in Shoreditch   

Merchants Tavern, a rather new opening in Shoreditch, operated by the talented Angela Hartnett with head chef Neil Borthwick in charge of the kitchen. It definitely has a "Shoreditch" vibe to it with a classy bar at the front and a very spacey dining room with an open kitchen at the back. I am a big fan of Angela's cooking, her cooking is all about using fresh seasonal ingredients, with great cooking executed and presented in a neat and smart format without going over the top. Having eaten at her flagship Murano as well as Cafe Murano, I had great expectations on my visit to Merchants Tavern.  
Merchants Tavern
Old Street Fashioned

We opted for some fresh native oysters with avruga caviar to kick off our dinner and the oysters was very clean and fresh, the caviar added an extra layer of richness, but the oysters were very small and at £6 each, just a little too expensive for my liking. My starter of roast quail, hazelnut pesto, remoulade and foie gras was excellent, the quail was perfectly cooked, the gamey flavour of the meat worked in harmony with the rich foie gras, the hazelnut pesto linked up the whole dish together with its well balanced creamy and nutty flavours, it was simply faultiness.  
native oysters with avruga caviar
roast quail, hazelnut pesto, remoulade and foie gras
butternut Squash and crapaudine beetroot salad

For main, I had the the roast brill with purple sprouting broccoli, toasted almond milk, capers and raisin puree. It was a very interesting dish with some usual flavour combinations. The brill itself was cooked spot on at the right level, it was moist and meaty which was such a treat, the broccoli offered some sweet bitterness while the almond milk and raisin puree gave the dish some extra texture and flavours which worked wonderfully. 
roast brill with purple sprouting broccoli,
toasted almond milk, capers and raisin puree
Cod with sourdough crust, brown shrimps,
sorrel and lettuce emulsion

The dessert course was the let down of the evening, the Muscavado tart with Bramley apple and black pepper sorbet was one of the most challenging desserts I've ever encountered. The tart itself was very average but the black pepper sorbet was a real killer, it was far too intense and spicy, I felt like I was eating fire and failed to taste anything afterwards, it was very unbalanced in flavours and at almost £10 a pop, far too much for what its worth.  
Muscavado tart with
Bramley apple and black pepper sorbet
Mont Blanc

But overall I really enjoyed my dining experience at Merchants Tavern, some very clever uses of ingredients, well thought out and put together in a very pleasant manner. My quail starter was one of the nicest dishes I've eaten in 2014, it was such a shame that the desserts failed to deliver, otherwise the cooking level was of very high standard. Also special mention to the bar team that put out the cocktail menu, some very ambitious and modern takes on the classics, such as an Old Fashioned using a fine aged rum with two types of brandy. Merchants Tavern is one the few places in Shoreditch that offers quality cocktails and fine food at the same time, well worth a visit.  

Food 6.5 
Service 6 
Ambience 7 
Value 6  

£60 per head with a cocktail  

36 Charlotte Rd, London EC2A 3PG  

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