3 weeks after opening, I'm pleased to report that Merchants Tavern was everything I hoped it would be. We had a lovely meal at the bar as walk ins on a busy Thursday night. This is a new joint venture between Angela Harnett and the team behind Canteen.
The front facing bar area is dark and sultry, all exposed brick and dark wood, I instantly liked the feel of the place. There was a steady stream of visitors coming and going, some diners in the bar area but mostly post work drinkers. It feels relaxed and like somewhere you want to spend many an evening.
We started off with a glass of champagne and some starters to share from the bar menu.
The salt beef on rye sandwich (£7) and the cauliflower cheese croquettes (£3.90) arrived first. The former was a little on the dry side, good quality meat but not an easy thing to share, our own fault, not the smartest of orders. Great pickled cabbage though and I think there were a few juniper berries in there, nice touch.
The croquettes were potato based but had a strong cauliflower flavour with an oozy cheese centre. Presented in the little metal tin, 3 between 2, also not an ideal sharer.
The best of the starters by far was the ogleshield and ham toasted sandwich (£8), I would definitely order that again, every day of my life if I could! Served with sliced pickle to cut through the richness of the cheese, even looking amazing in this crap pic!
Pretty much everything on the short bar menu appealed to me actually, deep fried oysters, fish fingers with tartare (which we would have ordered but that day’s batch of haddock was deemed not good upon delivery apparently, shame). Jesus salami also sounds intriguing….
Onto mains and we ordered from the restaurant menu proper and made everyone in the bar jealous when the dishes arrived and the smells wafted through the room.
I went for the cod with ham hock, chicken broth, leeks and salsify (£19). The fish was perfectly cooked and the broth was delicate and full of chickeny goodness. Loved it.
Art, of course, had the pork belly with roasted cauliflower and savoy cabbage (£19.50). It looked so pretty. We had sides of baked potato puree and root veggies (£3.50 each).
Special mention to the brilliant Thomas Blythe too, who is running front of house with his customary flair and wit. He delivered our dessert of rum baba with caramelized apples and raisins (£8). 2 kinds of apple, I really welcomed the tang of the crispy sliced green apple.
To conclude, I loved Merchants Tavern, loved the food, vibe, service, location, I could go on. Places like this opening make me love the London restaurant scene more and more. There's so much choice and general standards are much higher, even than when I moved to the city in 2007. I'll be moving to Montreal for work in March so I have a lot of eating to cram into the next 4 months. I hope to make it back to Merchants Tavern before I head off.
Angela Harnett was there on the night, and Giles Coren was in for dinner, I reckon he loved it, too.
36 Charlotte Road