A Bromance meal (yes capital B) for two is a beautiful thing. And what better setting than a romantic French restaurant with rock-bottom prices and words like ‘vierge’ on the menu?
Le Mercury has been pushing out budget-friendly meals on Upper Street since 1985, and based on the new branch up the road you can see why people keep coming back. You probably couldn’t get a pint nearby for the price of a starter here it’s that cheap. The staff are really friendly (although I think the waitress mistook us for an exceedingly good-looking gay couple) and the butter is soft when you try & spread it on your bread. Simple things people!!
Bargain basement prices don’t come at the expense of portion sizes – you’re not getting mugged off with a quarter-full plate as my hefty goat’s cheese starter proved. I enjoyed finishing it all, the tangy basil pesto a nice addition to the sharpness of the cheese, although there was little that could have gone wrong with the order. You have to be a seriously bad chef to fuck up cheese with a bit of sauce.
Al went for the beef carpaccio with capers, red pepper relish, wild rocket salad and grated parmesan. There was a greater finesse to the dish, at least to look at, and it came highly rated by the diner.
It started to come a bit unstuck by the mains. We both tried something from the specials boards, again with the novelty of student prices. My grilled swordfish was cold but tasted quite nice; the French beans and sauce vierge looking a bit lonely on a huge plate. Some fries on the side filled the void.
Now I’m a big fan of pork belly, but the honey roast variety that turned up to greet Al was aesthetically as close to a Mr Whippy dog shit as you can get. Not even some savoy cabbage and bits of apple could hide the resemblance. Passers-by must have been filled with dread as Al quaffed his glass of Sauvignon Blanc whilst tucking into a steaming great turd. Tasted good though.
Despite pleasant enough dishes, Le Mercury Deuxieme feels like two-thirds of the quality for two-thirds of the price. I doubt there are many other places in London you can get swordfish for a tenner, but if you’re going for a special meal you may as well fork out a bit more and get something memorable.
154-155 Upper Street, Islington, N1 1RA