On a Saturday night at Merchants Tavern, Angela Hartnett stood by the open kitchen beaming from ear to ear. Understandably so – this new Shoreditch restaurant cuts a fine figure with its retro curved green leather booths, comfy chairs and exposed brickwork. And the team involved is star-studded.
Hartnett is joined by her partner Neil Borthwick, who previously worked at the acclaimed Restaurant Bras in France, and the founders of British restaurant mini-chain Canteen – Dominic Lake and Patrick Clayton-Malone.
Head chef Borthwick’s menu marries elements of British, French and Italian cuisine with plenty of seasonal ingredients. Our venison loin was served pink-middled, draped with a savoury sliver of lardo and accompanied by sweet braised red cabbage, quince slices and sprouts. A main of roast cod with salsify was also cooked skilfully, though the accompanying chicken broth was a little too salty due to flecks of ham hock. A heather honey tart worked better. Resembling a poshed-up treacle tart, it was laced with citrus and served with malt whisky ice-cream.
Service started friendly and efficient, but as the night progressed became less attentive, though we were in no hurry to vacate our spot – for a cavernous space, it’s surprisingly cosy.
Teething problems aside, Merchants Tavern is a restaurant with a lot to offer – we’ll be back to try some cocktails at the bar.