Opened in 2013, this Shoreditch establishment has some serious pedigree behind it. A collaboration between Murano’s Angela Hartnett MBE and her partner Neil Borthwick (formerly at The Square in Mayfair), and Dominic Lake and Patrick Clayton-Malone, founders of the Canteen chain of eateries. Borthwick is head chef, and his all-day bar and dining room menus offer ‘modern European’, with a focus on seasonal ingredients.
Set back from the graffiti and bustle of Great Eastern Street, Merchants Tavern offers sophistication with a side of fun. Brunch was served at the front of the restaurant (this former Victorian warehouse space includes a bar area, kitchen counter seating, smart dining area and private dining), where big windows looking out over Charlotte Road keep plants in oversize glass bottle terrariums thriving, while a collection of pinned moths looks on. A log burner adds a welcoming glow, while the Mad Men-esque, neon-lit bar would look great in a Valencia filter. Round wooden tables paired with mid-century chairs and dark leather booths, all tied together with brass accents and a parquet floor, make for a cosy, relaxed space in which to ease into the day.
The food is varied and brunch ranges from granola and yoghurt to fried chicken and waffles. The three-cheese toastie with spicy ketchup is a glorious gloop of three different vintages of Comté (you know good things are coming when it takes longer to clean the cheese off the grill than it does to cook the sandwich), toasted to give just the right amount of crunch. Served on a breadboard, this is unfussy food done really well. A side of skinny fries in a copper pot accompanies the bread, and while they look deceptively pale, again, they are delicious and it’s instantly evident that even something as simple as a side of fries has had the Borthwick touch. The ‘dirty’ bacon, sausage and egg sandwich is another hearty brunch option, all soft white farm bread, fat, flavourful sausages and bacon from Lake District Farmers (where the restaurant sources its beef, too) topped with a cheery fried egg. There’s a good selection of juices, or, if you’re after something a little stronger, try the Merchants’ Bloody Mary… or even the Corpse Reviver #2 (equal parts London dry gin, Lillet blanc, orange liqueur and lemon juice, finished with a couple of sprays of absinthe) if it’s been a particularly long night.
Brunch for two, with juice and coffee, £35
A relaxed yet smart spot for brunch where you’ll be equally as welcome to spread out the morning papers as you are ordering a round of Aperol Spritz.
Brunch is served on Saturday and Sunday, 10am until 1pm. 36 Charlotte Road,
London EC2A 3PG. merchantstavern.co.uk