Merchants Tavern: The 'Mad Men'-style restaurant getting everything right

Every now and then you have a date night where nothing goes wrong. The whole thing – from venue to food to service to company – is just right, and writing a review becomes quite dreamy.  This is how last night’s dinner at Merchants Tavern went.  It was quite impeccable.
Merchants Tavern: 'Mad Men'-style restaurant in Shoreditch getting everything right | Recommended by HYHOI.com | Have You Heard Of It? London bar & restaurant recommendations
We arrived at the Victorian warehouse and former apothecary at 7:30pm, and it was already pleasantly full – the bar full of crowds who’d rolled out of the adjacent offices, the restaurant with groups of two to four.  Everyone knows a busy restaurant is a good sign.
Merchants Tavern: 'Mad Men'-style restaurant in Shoreditch getting everything right | Recommended by HYHOI.com | Have You Heard Of It? London bar & restaurant recommendations
Merchants Tavern: 'Mad Men'-style restaurant in Shoreditch getting everything right | Recommended by HYHOI.com | Have You Heard Of It? London bar & restaurant recommendations
The interior is fab.  Designed by Hackney design studio Very Good & Proper, it references the fifties and early sixties in a simple, kind of Mad Men / Victoriana way.  There’s a high, part-glass ceiling, dark green leather booths and plush red and grey chairs, obscured glass and mid-century furniture pieces, and the odd bit of red neon lighting to jazz things up.  Even the bathrooms are just so (I always judge a place on its toilets!).
Merchants Tavern: 'Mad Men'-style restaurant in Shoreditch getting everything right | Recommended by HYHOI.com | Have You Heard Of It? London bar & restaurant recommendations
Merchants Tavern: 'Mad Men'-style restaurant in Shoreditch getting everything right | Recommended by HYHOI.com | Have You Heard Of It? London bar & restaurant recommendations
The dining room has a feature wall of wine bottles, and an open kitchen surrounded by the Kitchen Counter, where guests can sit up on high stools for a special five course tasting menu, served by the chefs (£50; seven courses for £60).
Kitchen Counter @ Merchants Tavern: 'Mad Men'-style restaurant in Shoreditch getting everything right | Recommended by HYHOI.com | Have You Heard Of It? London bar & restaurant recommendations
Staff are engaged and knowledgeable – our waiter Rhys was a dream, choosing my wine, recommending cocktails (classics with innovative riffs – Richard’s Paloma was perfect) and providing plenty of detail and suggestions from the menu.
Merchants Tavern: 'Mad Men'-style restaurant in Shoreditch getting everything right | Recommended by HYHOI.com | Have You Heard Of It? London bar & restaurant recommendations
We started with an item from the small plates menu – something to nibble on alongside our cocktails while we decided what to order next from the modern and seasonal European menuDeep fried oysters are just £3 a pop, and our minds were made up.  Despite first thinking that it was a sacrilege to deep fry such fine food, I must admit I much prefer this version to the cold and slimy norm!  The oysters arrived on their shells, topped with microherbs and chili, and were totally delicious.
Deep fried oysters @ Merchants Tavern: 'Mad Men'-style restaurant in Shoreditch getting everything right | Recommended by HYHOI.com | Have You Heard Of It? London bar & restaurant recommendations
Next, two starters recommended by Rhys.  My quail (a house dish, and rightly so) featured a roasted breast, confit leg and pan fried foie gras, with hazelnut pesto and remoulade.  As usual, Richard’s plate was clean before I had a chance to have a taste of his sea bream carpaccio! He blamed it on the carpaccio’s deliciousness…
Quail @ Merchants Tavern: 'Mad Men'-style restaurant in Shoreditch getting everything right | Recommended by HYHOI.com | Have You Heard Of It? London bar & restaurant recommendations
My plantation pork belly main was quite divine. Perfectly cuboid in shape, with a hard-to-break layer of crackling topping the juicy meat below, it was served with apple and date puree, January King cabbage, and a fantastically prepared carrot (it had clearly been slow cooked for an eternity and was super sweet).  Richard had gone for ox cheek, with creamed potato and pickled onions. Although more like a dessert in appearance, it was another hit, and my impossible-to-please boyfriend was thrilled (which happens very rarely!).
Pork belly @ Merchants Tavern: 'Mad Men'-style restaurant in Shoreditch getting everything right | Recommended by HYHOI.com | Have You Heard Of It? London bar & restaurant recommendations
Dessert came in the form of a sweet rhubarb and cream topped meringue, and a super bitter Seville orange tart, balanced with chocolate ice cream. Both highly unusual and tasty, though perhaps not as stunning as the previous courses.
Merchants Tavern: 'Mad Men'-style restaurant in Shoreditch getting everything right | Recommended by HYHOI.com | Have You Heard Of It? London bar & restaurant recommendations
A pair of warm-from-the-oven Madeleines were delivered right at the end, on the house – lemon-scented and totally delightful, they were the cherry on the top of an already-impeccable cake.
Madeleines @ Merchants Tavern: 'Mad Men'-style restaurant in Shoreditch getting everything right | Recommended by HYHOI.com | Have You Heard Of It? London bar & restaurant recommendations
Merchants Tavern is onto a seriously good thing, with its perfectly designed interior, relaxing service, buzzing ambience and spot-on food and drink.  It’s the ideal high-end date spot – start with drinks, move to dinner, and you’ll be sure to impress.
Merchants Tavern: 'Mad Men'-style restaurant in Shoreditch getting everything right | Recommended by HYHOI.com | Have You Heard Of It? London bar & restaurant recommendations
Merchants Tavern: 'Mad Men'-style restaurant in Shoreditch getting everything right | Recommended by HYHOI.com | Have You Heard Of It? London bar & restaurant recommendations
If you’re after a private dining room, you’ve come to the right place too: The Storeroom is a hidden basement space for up to 22.  I’m earmarking this one for future events, for sure.
The Storeroom @ Merchants Tavern: 'Mad Men'-style restaurant in Shoreditch getting everything right | Recommended by HYHOI.com | Have You Heard Of It? London bar & restaurant recommendations
 
Meal for two, with drinks and service, about £120.
Merchants Tavern
36 Charlotte Road, Shoreditch, EC2A 3PD
Book online