I haven't spent much time in Islington, but whenever I do visit, I acquire a sense of content. A part of me feels like it is a place I could settle, so when a friend recommended Le Mercury for 'Date Night', I thought 'what better place'. Eager for the weekend (and the meal), I booked to guarantee a table at Le Mercury Deuxieme, which had recently opened further along Upper Street.
Upon arrival, I was told that I hadn't reserved, and in fact the restaurant 'did not take bookings for that time on weekends and to come back in half an hour'. Much to my dismay (and a great deal of upset - the maître d' was extremely rude and unhelpful), I marched to the original Le Mercury and complained. Here, the host was much more obliging, led us to a waiting area and gave us free bellini's. Shortly after, we were seated and once again, the staff expressed their apologies.
The menu boasted a wide range of dishes, which catered considerably to one's hunger and I opted for the crayfish and lobster ravioli to start and duck to follow. My date decided on beef carpaccio and the special, lamb's neck. To drink, Uruguayan white wine, Viognier. We were also given bread.
The starters arrived quickly. I was slightly disappointed by the size of my meal, but once I tucked in, this factor was overridden. I often find seafood to be bland and badly seasoned, especially when formed into pasta, however the ravioli was full of flavour, not too salty and extremely well balanced, complimented by the spinach and shellfish sauce which was delicate and subtle. Sadly, the beef carpaccio needed to be more seasoned, and the caper and red pepper relish did not give the dish the kick it required.
Shortly after, our mains appeared. I was glad to see the portions were sized sensibly. The duck looked good, and smelt even better. The lamb also appeared well presented. As I began to eat, I found it increasingly difficult to cut into my food. The duck was tough and overcooked for my liking (I prefer my meat rare to medium, as opposed to well done) whereas the lamb which fell apart. Attentively, the waitress noticed me struggling and brought over a steak knife. Fortunately, my meal was tasty, which seemed somewhat rewarding after it had been left to cook for too long. The garlic mash along with the red wine jus and savoy cabbage met the duck nicely. After two good flavour combinations for my starter and main course, it was obvious that the menu had been well thought out, although the final delivery of the dishes needed to be polished.
Whilst we waited for dessert (cheese plate for me, dark chocolate tart for him), the restaurant became crowded. 9PM on Saturday evening was obviously prime-time for Le Mercury. As we were seated quickly, we were given a table by the door. This meant that traffic gathered around us, as people left and others arrived. The restaurant does have a certain romantic ambience that was ruined as we were surrounded by hungry customers eager to get to their tables. Together with it being a cold night in January, this was not a redeeming feature.
Dessert was good, ending the meal nicely. A good selection of cheese (despite the gruyere, but this was matter of personal opinion) and crackers. The tart was rich but sliced small, not too overpowering and teamed with vanilla ice cream. The wine was delicious, fruity in flavour and matched well our selection of food.
Le Mercury was an experience. Good food and service however the blip at the start of the evening, overcooked meat and poor seating arrangements means I will not be visiting again.