Taberna do Mercado – A Portuguese Tavern in Spitalfields Market

I received a message from a dear friend the other day, saying that she would like to treat me to a belated birthday dinner. She told me to meet her at Taberna do Mercado at 6.15 pm, and that they wouldn’t accept reservations for dinner. No reservations? Two weeks after its opening?! I hoped it wasn’t going to be another Breakfast Club experience where you queue for an hour and then get told to eat faster so they can serve more people. Considering that Taberna do Mercado is the brain child of Nuno Mendes, of Chiltern Firehouse fame, I was anticipating similar celebrity buzz and wannabe crowds. I could not have been more wrong.

We both arrived at the agreed time (which never happens) to find a cosy little tavern in one of the corners of Spitalfields Market. To my relief there was no queue, probably because 6.15 pm IS a bit early for dinner. I didn’t mind. I was hungry. With seating for about 40 people, the interior was rustic but very clean, with exposed brick, and a chalkboard on the wall listing the specials. We were seated immediately. Only four other tables were occupied at this point, but by 7 pm the place was packed.

First things first – the wine. We asked for recommendations for a medium-bodied red. After expertly sampling two excellent choices, we opted for a bottle of Casa de Mouraz Tinto 2012 Dao. This, as it turns out, was the perfect companion to all dishes we were about to consume.

We started with a plate of prawn rissóis – an explosion of flavours packed inside a baked pastry crust. Could not have wished for a better start for our meal! Then, each of the six dishes that followed kept coming at a steady pace. Every single one unique and full of flavour, not to mention beautiful to look at.

From the cured meats selection we chose this tasty plate:

Cured meat plate

Next, a cheese plate with a few slices of Quinta de Veigainha, a hard, parmesan-like cheese. Another excellent choice, followed by wild garlic, asparagus and fennel migas:

Wild garlic, asparagus and fennel migas

Being the adventurous daredevils that we are, we also went for the more exotic ‘Cuttlefish and pig trotters coentrada’:

Cuttlefish and pig trotters coentrada

My friend announced from the start that she wanted the ‘Bisaro pork tartare, Cozido broth and cabbage’, so naturally we did. It was amazing.

From the tinned fish menu we chose the ‘Turbot in Dulse oil’:

Turbot in dulce oil

The Verdict:
I would definitely recommend Taberna do Mercado, not only because of the tasty dishes and the excellent wines but also for the laid back atmosphere and reasonable prices. I will definitely go back for another visit.
4/5

Details:
Address: Old Spitalfields Market, 107B Commercial Road, London E1 6BG
Bookings for lunch (12 – 2.30 pm) accepted.
3 – 6 pm walk-ins only for drinks, cured meats, cheese and cold snacks
6 – 9.30 pm dinner service, walk-ins only.

Featured image copyright: http://www.oldspitalfieldsmarket.com/