Thursday, January 30, 2014

Merchant Tavern

Yesterday I had the most amazing quail. It was tender, delicate and with crunchy skin. I don't even like quail, but the waiter sold me on the fois gras and Christmas salad garnish. To heck with taste assumptions. I will try it and then the worst thing that happens is actually that I won't eat it and then I have a delicious halibut coming for my main.

The quail starter was possibly even better because I really was not expecting it. When we got there about thirty minutes prior, we had asked for a table and was told to wait 10 minutes, while at 9pm on a rainy Wednesday looking at a half empty dinning hall. We went to the bar, the room was cold, and the man behind the bar was less than adequate in answering my tannin questions. (Sell me on a French wine, I am ready to spend spend spend, but ended up almost settling on a £25 bottle of Merlot, which i was told was voted one of London's best housewines? Onwards and upwards) 

Finally we were taken to a booth table and introduced to our waiter who positively described quail as licking the back of a stamp dipped in honey - because if you are not familiar with quail I am not sure this would get you any closer to understanding it's complex, most frequently dry and bland taste. 

But I was happy to have a waiter with a bit of personality. And while the bread arrived only after we had placed our order, our Boris water was poured immediately and kept coming.

My main, in fact a plate and not a halibut, came in the most amazing sorrel and watercress reduction. It had a spring in its step and was brightly green. I adored it. 

The deserts were all hearty and in theme with the Heston Blumenthal inspired winter menu. I went for the Mont Blanc which was seemingly endless and very creamy Chantilly cream on an overcooked chocolate cookie and a small dollop of factually delicious chestnut cream in the centre. For anyone who has spent a summer in Paris chasing chestnut cream with cream or between sponge layers like myself, there is the initial excitement of chestnut cream anywhere. It's so delicious. This chestnut creme was not so sweet as most of those I have solicited in France but sadly the accompanying dressing was a total mishap. Who ever made the deserts has some ways to go to perfect an otherwise very considerate attempt - it even had a wonderful candid chestnut on top! Like a dark cherry in an icecream Sunday. Too bad I am not in the milkshake shop. 

The bill came to £125 for too, with a non-house Bordeaux, which cost a little more than the house, for two people.

The food is ambitious and delicious and I will come back for more quail (I can't believe I like quail) and a taste of the summer menu. But they seriously need to develop/ work on the front bar/cafe and accompanying front space menu and find a friendlier hostess who will explain to guests why they have to wait 20 minutes for a table in a half empty restaurant.
Merchants Tavern on Urbanspoon

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