Nuno Mendes took everyone by surprise when he announced the arrival of Taberna do Mercado. Since opening a restaurant in André Balazs’ Chiltern Firehouse last year, he’s no longer the preserve of foodies in the know. For those who wanted to continue eating Mendes’ food, it became a logistical nightmare, with tables rarer than hen’s teeth. So when the arrival of a food offering that’s a bit more ‘Nuno’ (and wallet friendly) came along, it was a cause for celebration.
Taberna do Mercado (located in Spitalfields Market) is no reservations, except mercifully at lunchtimes. I decided to guarantee myself a table by booking a lunchtime slot, which proved to be a good idea – by the time the doors opened there was already a queue of 10 people. The space is very small, and although there are seats outside (under the cover of the market roof), you’ll definitely want to be in the restaurant, with its whitewashed walls and wooden tables.
The menu is best explained by calling it ‘Portuguese tapas’ – there are cured meats and cheeses, as well as sandwiches, small plates and desserts. We started with a few of the snacks – prawn rissóis and carrots escabeche. The rissóis were similar to empanadas (filled with juicy prawns and bisque-like sauce) and I’m glad I didn’t have to share these, as I could have happily eaten another plate. The carrots escabeche were perhaps a little more sharp that I had anticipated, but perhaps paired with some of the cured meats on offer, would be a great start to a meal.
One of the things that had been most talked about before the opening was the selection of in-house tinned fish. We were recommended the scallops with brown butter and walnuts, and it is honestly the best scallop dish I have ever eaten. I could have drunk the brown butter sauce if there had been any left from mopping it up with the charred bread, and the pickled radishes were excellent at cutting thorough the sauce’s richness.