Every now and then you have a night out that you will remember for a long time. This is what happened to Mr Smith when he visited The Merchants Tavern, great food, wine and meeting new people. Kitchen Counter experiences are the way to go…
After fitting in the run in the morning, plus the core and stretching exercises after work (all part of the training programme), Mr Smith had to make a dash over to Merchants Tavern. There is one thing that Mr Smith hates and that is being late for things. A very brisk walk across from the hotel to Shoreditch and he made it, just on time.
Heading through the bar and in to the Dinning Room, Mr Smith could see the Kitchen Counter ahead of him and the big open kitchen. When arriving there was no one else at the counter, but there were a few other settings laid out, whilst the dinning room itself was quite busy, especially for a Monday night.
For Mr Smith, the experience of a kitchen counter or table is great. You are right in the action and get the chance to watch the chefs, talk to them and see how a kitchen really works. It is amazing how it all comes together, so much timing and organisation, with what is obviously a lot of preparation in advance.
For anyone that has never sat at a Kitchen Counter or Table, it is worth doing at least once. It gives a whole new perspective on the hard work that goes in to producing great food, as well as great for people watching.
The only decision that Mr Smith had to make was whether to have the 5 or 7 course tasting menu. Before he went there was determination to have 5 and be good, however when asked 7 was said, as always going for the most possible and always with the matched wine.
The Oyster was a great start and the Gruner Vetliner worked well and brought out a lovely peppery edge and cut through the batter nicely.
Next up were the scallops, which were divine. Mr Smith was the guinea pig for the new topping on them (delicious) and the pumpkin supported them nicely without being overpowering. The Verdicchio was amazing to go with it, one of Mr Smith’s favourites for the evening.
Next was the artichoke. Mr Smith did not get massive flavour from the artichoke itself, but the hidden chunks of Parmesan were a treat to find and were a complete revelation when eaten with the Fino Sherry. There is definitely a case for just having Parmesan and Fino one night at home.
The Quail, which is the signature dish, was very complex in flavours, acidity from the cabbage, creamy remoulade, bitter leaves and fat from the skin of the Quail and Foie Gras. Delicious dish and played with the tastebuds. The challenge is matching a wine to that type of dish, but the Sommelier did an amazing job.
She brought out the Chardonnay on the list, but also a Primitivo to be able to get Mr Smith’s opinion on which worked best. The problem was that the Chardonnay went with the Quail, especially the skin, and the Primitivo with the bitter leaves and cabbage element. So when asked which worked best Mr Smith had to suggest they both did and that maybe going forward they just provide 2 small glasses. The suggestion was definitely taken on board. The quail was lovely with so many different flavours.
Following the Quail was the Venison, a perfect dish for this time of year. Great flavour in the meat added to by the lardo. The cabbage was lovely and the dish was rounded off with little kicks of horseradish. The parsley root is new for Mr Smith and quite subtle, but added to the dish.
Mr Smith also received a little extra dish of shaved cauliflower and almonds, which actually went really well with the venison.
The biggest surprise of the night came with the Moroccan wine to go with the Venison, amazing. The Syrah was a combination of the best of new and old world wines and gave a good dark fruit/blackcurrant hit, perfect for Venison. Apparently it is made by a Frenchman who went on a cycling holiday, spotted the vineyard, liked it and now produces great wine there. The wine is called tandem a very apt name.
After that came the apple sorbet with a Russian Vodka. Pour some over, drink the rest. The Vodka really worked with the sorbet and enhanced the apple flavour.
Finally, the dessert. This was always going to be the challenging dish as Mr Smith is not a chocolate fan and has never had a chocolate mousse that he has liked. However, the mind set is always to try things on a tasting menu as you never know how it will be. The good news was there was nothing left at the end and the Pedro Ximenez sherry was an incredible compliment to it, syrupy, lush, rich and not too sweet. Quite possibly the best match you could get for it. A pretty good end to the meal.
Then a surprise, Mr Smith ordered a cup of tea, actually it just what was needed. The madeleines that were sent out with it were great, light, fluffy and delicious.
So that is all about the food & wine, but there as a lot more to the evening than that.
The kitchen Counter allows you to interact with other dinners and the chefs. Mr Smith was fascinated with how the kitchen worked and thought it was more entertaining watching it than any TV he could have been watching.
Another 4 people had joined Mr Smith at the counter and gradually the conversations sparked up, especially with Hayley and Sian, who were also working through the tasting menu, but the 5 courses.
It was great to get to meet them, talk about food, restaurants, life, travels and running. So much so that Hayley is tempted to do Copenhagen Half in September and Sian would also be there to cheer on, or maybe even run! Will they sign up to it, time will tell, but if they do then some Copenhagen food adventures will be on the cards, especially after Mr Smith was providing them both with recommendations for restaurants when they do get to Copenhagen, it would be great to share more adventures in food in such a great place to eat.
As we were talking and they were finishing off their meal it became obvious that we were the only ones left in the restaurant and by this time Neil and the team were finishing off and we were able to get to talk to them more.
The whole experience of the evening was great. Just having the food and wine would have been good, but the experience enhanced considerably by the Kitchen Counter.
The kitchen in action