Merchants Tavern – London

Shoreditch… Home to a million restaurants claiming to once have been a Barrow Boys this and a Brewers Sons that and occasionally, an Underground Barbers something else.

However, this time the merchants tavern is feeding you more than just made-up hipster history, it is serving you cracking food and from a Victorian warehouse and former Apothecary no less.

Merchants Tavern Exterior

This place is the collaborative restaurant by Neil Borthwick (formerly of Michel Bras and The Square), Angela Hartnett (of Murano and of my personal favourite chefs list) and the founders of the Canteen chain.

Merchants Tavern

Booze:

I need to start by telling you about the booze as it was the first thing that grabbed my attention. Ever the pain in the a*s when it comes to cocktail menus, I am famous amongst friends for going off piste and asking for the barman/bar-woman (poor unsuspecting person that is just trying to get on with their job) to make me something off menu.

This time I explained that I like Gin (as you definitely know) and that I dont like citrusy cocktails but instead, I would like either savoury or indeed something with one of my 3 p’s (plums, pears, peaches etc). No sooner had I uttered the final “p” and he was off, only to return with something…. Well something that was like nostalgia in a cocktail boat… The Pegu Club.

Just stop and take that in…I will repeat the name for you. The Pegu Club.

This cocktail tastes like the peach melba sweets that I used to get when I was a kid, but slightly less sweet with bitters and booze in. This literally may have changed cocktails for me. So obvs I ordered another 2 for friends. (Ok one of them was for a friend).

Merchants Tavern

Food:

I need to talk to you seriously about seafood and Oysters in particular. I know that previously I have talked about types of Oysters that even the shell-phobic will manage etc etc. Each time, you have probably thought, “oh thats just not for me”…..Until now…….. This. Is. For. You.

Their Deep fried Oyster is insanely good. It comes perched in its original shell and is battered and flavoured to perfection. Also, it comes with a tartare sauce of sorts and truthfully, if you dont like Oysters but want to be brave and give it a try… This is your chance. Once deep fried, they have a far more palatable consistency and end up being a little more like mussels that what you will have scarred into your mind.

Merchants Tavern

Other famed pre starters are Confit duck bun, red onion & treviso chutney and the Sausage Roll. Can we talk?

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For starters, I had Quail with hazelnut pesto, remoulade & foie gras, while my friends had Tuna sashimi with pickled mouli & avocado and also Bobby beans with anchovy cream & croutons and finally Herratige Tomatoes.

I can definitely say that I triumphed in the starter stakes and that my quail was fabulous. The foie gras was a little rich for me, but hey… Its foie gras so what can you expect?

Other notable dishes are the, Ortiz tuna & potato salad & the Octopus Salad.

Merchants Tavern

For main, I had the Plantation pork belly with braised fennel and apricot chutney. Again being the predictable pain that I am and as fennel makes me visibly angry, I asked them to make it with something else, which they did without any hesitation…. Fennel… I mean, just dont start with me.

My guests all had the Smoked ham hock with lentils, cornichons & poached egg. I had slight egg envy, but really I was winning again with the crunchy cracking on the pork belly.

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Finally, we indulged in the “Paris Brest”… Never had one? It is simply (not at all simply) a French dessert, made of choux pastry and a praline flavoured cream. Basically it is what happens when a number of very delicious things come together to make one big delicious thing. If you dont like it……. you aren’t well.

As a little known fact, the Merchants Tavern also does a pretty special Sunday Roast. Unfortunately my rule is always…. Eggs & Toast trumps Sunday Roast and so I am yet to attend.

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Overall, this place is very cool. Its the type of place that you can trot to for drinks if you are heading elsewhere for dinner, or go for a really great dining evening with friends. Most of all, its fun, its lively, and frankly anywhere that can make a boozey Peach Melba is pretty awesome in my book.

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