This old-timer has been an Upper Street fixture for many years, with its tried-and-trusted formula of cod-French bistro food at bargain prices (all starters cost £3.95, all mains £8.95), served over three floors in a candlelit setting. And it still pulls in the crowds – the place was packed on a Saturday night. After our meal, though, we were left wondering why.
Admittedly, it wasn’t yet dark enough outside for candlelight to cast its magic glow, but Le Mercury seemed like a worn and cynical operation. First, tables are uncomfortably closely packed. Second, the food was extremely average. From the totally trad menu – foie gras and grilled goat’s cheese for starters, cassoulet and roast pork for mains – moules marinière was fine if ordinary, while ravioli de la mer was dull. Mains were worse. A meanly thin steak, although tender, came with a packet-like gravy that was nothing like the advertised shallot sauce; frites were the saving grace. ‘Gateaux de poissons’, aka fish cakes, tasted like a supermarket version.
So, while £8.95 may be cheap for a main course, it really wasn’t good value. Le Mercury seems like a restaurant past its sell-by date.