Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Le Mercury, Islington

About once a month (though we've been slacking lately), Natalie, Karen, Lucy and I go out for a post-work dinner.  We try to make it on a Monday so as to dissuade the Monday Blues, however, since I've started rehearsing with the Royal Orchestral Society on Monday evenings, that's put a spanner in the works, as Brits say. 

Nevertheless, we were able to have a lovely evening out at the chic candle-lit favorite of Natalie's, Le Mercury (and do check out their website as it's really very sweet!), on Upper Street near Angel.  With a similar ethos to the Little Bay chains, that is, affordable (read: cheap) modern European food in a trendy, fun setting, Le Mercury did not fail to deliver on its promise of cheap and tasty dishes.  Starters are at a set price of £3.95 and include delights such as Fois Gras & Duck Ballotine with Poached Dates & Toast.  I shared the Ravioli de la Mer with Natalie, which wasn't actually big enough for sharing, as I embarrasingly learned, but wonderfully presented served on a bed of well-seasoned spinach.  Mains are all £7.95 and I ordered the Poitrine de Porc (Slow Roasted Honeyed Pork Belly with Confit Celeriac & Granny Smith Apple), which is kind of like my "test" dish, as I order it at every new restaurant I try (where it's offered) but was equally impressed with Karen's Sauteed Potato Dumplings with Baby Artichokes and Parmesan Foam, which were plump and al-dente.  To finish, I had the Sticky Toffee Pudding with Chantilly Cream (people need to start recognizing the fact that chantilly cream DOES NOT trump an ice cold scoop of vanilla ice cream - I know this is the American in me speaking because we think a scoop of ice cream goes with everything).  One mistake restaurants often make with this dessert is dry, stale cake, but this pudding was perfectly warm and moist on the inside.  Two thumbs up from me.

So if we're comparing cheap eats, then I'm going to go ahead and say I prefer Le Mercury for the quality of food.  Little Bay's fares begin to taste a little ... samey, after a while.  But what can you expect for prices that low (Little Bay's starters are priced at £2.25, mains at £5.25, desserts at £2.25 before 7 pm, after 7, the prices go up by nearly a pound, if that).  But if we're going for character and decor, I'd vote Little Bay, despite Le Mercury's chic interior.  Little Bay Kilburn boasts tables you climb to (literally), colorful cushions and a real, pulsing, dynamic restaurant environment which makes the dining experience exciting and fun.

Why not try both, next time you're in town?

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