I’ve not been to Portugal yet to truly experience their culinary offering (a stag trip to the Algrave eating kebabs doesn’t count), but its restaurants like Taberna Do Mercado that really makes me wonder why and just urges me to fly over there at the next given opportunity. Nuno Mendes I salute you sir for creating such compelling food with uncompromising flavours. (My first review can be seen here).
We dined alfresco during a warm September’s day and evening during my 2nd and 3rd visits.
This is where the magic happens, although they have a kitchen downstairs too.
The herbs are grown right outside the restaurant.
The specials menu.
Carabineiros from the Mediterranean Sea £26 from the specials. Naturally we order one each.
Green bean fritters, mussel coriander juice (£5). They are delectable and full of umami from the mussels. The shards of crisp and light batter coats those inherently sweet beans nicely.
Octopus and pepper salad £9. They are served in tins for that authentic look, but they’re not preserved in them. Nonetheless, they’re delightful. The sweetness of those peppers work well with the brininess of the meaty octopus and richness of the olive oil. The bread has it’s own game going on too, it comes warm and that textual chew it gives is simply awesome.
Ox tongue, girolles ‘escabeche’ £8.50 from the specials. The slow cooked girolles and onions escabeche style provides a wonderfully acidic taste that lifts the richness of the tender tongue jewelled with sweet beans.
Cuttlefish in pig trotters & coriander broth (£10). You can really taste the slow braising qualities in this dish which gives velvety richness in spades. It’s all balanced out by the vinegar it’s seasoned with.
My love affair for bread is so enhanced by this swoon-worthy stuff. It has a beautiful chew to it and is packed full of flavour.
Here come those huge carabineros – at £26 a pop they are more expensive than lobsters but the immense seafood flavour makes them some of the most profoundly delicious shellfish I’ve tasted. Umami and more umami, especially in the head, and yes it’s perfectly acceptable to suck head on this instance! One grumble here is that they are £26, roughly £10 more than Michelin starred Barrafina in Soho who sell them too.
Beef prego, prawn paste and sorrel (£9). The beef is seared on the grill outside and together with the toasted bread, sorrel and chives it was a symphony of flavour & textures.
Drizzle some of that hot oil and spicy mustard into your prego roll.
Pastel De Nata £2.50. They will be the best £2.50 you’ll ever spend – I found the oozing custard and crispy pastry irresistible.
Abade de Priscos – egg yolk with pork fat pudding with port £5. Pork fat in a pudding is quite common so I hear, lard is the case in point which is pork fat after all. So it’s not that unusual. It’s rich, gummy and sweet from fortified port it swims in. Its a novelty that awakens the palate.
We ended the meal with an espresso £2 and Morgadio de Calçada 2007 Douro port on the house.
Alfresco dining one more time for the 3rd visit –
Octopus and pepper salad £9.
Green bean fritters, mussel coriander juice.
Iberíco Pork Secreto £15 – this divine swine comes with grated courgettes and kelp. As lovely as it is the other dishes just eclipses it.
Isle of Mull scallops £10 – they are tasty but not worth the price tag.
The beef prego roll is a regular feature and deservedly so as it’s divine.
This time we have a little pour of Casa de Santa Eufemia 1973 port on the house – it’s rich and delicious.
When did I go? Sept 2016
The damage: Expect to pay £45-£70 per head with drinks.
The good: If food is anything like it here in Portugal then I’m definitely heading over as a gastro tourist. The ox tongue, cuttle fish, octopus, beef prego and pastel de nata are all marvellous must-haves. The food is simply stunning here and it really is my kind of eating. Our waiter was the same from both occasions and he was superb, the irony was that he was from Italy.
The bad: They had ran out of their infamous tarte de pastel de nata early evening (make some more hint hint) and be aware that the carabiniero and other seafood on the specials such as the scallops are a very costly treat £26 and £10 per a hit is just way too steep to justify.
Would I go again? Yes
Address: Old Spitalfields Market, 107b Commercial Street, London, E1 6BG
0207 375 0649