Hot Spot: Merchants Tavern

Hipster chic meets high-end cool in this converted Victorian warehouse oasis. Merchants Tavern in the heart of Shoreditch offers a perfectly impressive menu and atm­osphere for a relaxed dinner. The restaurant was started by Gordon Ramsay's protégée, Angela Hartnett, who's now very much a force of her own. Head chef Neil Borthwick offers up European ins­pired seasonal fare in the serene and moderately lit restaurant.

The reality

It’s nice to be able to dine well in the East End these days. Merchants Tavern offers a great, rel­axed yet classy place with great ambiance. The food is consistently good including a celery and wet garlic soup to start and a melt in the mouth hanger steak. Mains are a meaty affair, so not a place to take veggie clients, but everyone else will find a little bit of heaven.

The damage

You’ll want to try one of the top-notch cocktails and sample something from the fine wine list. Three courses and drinks for two will set you back about £130, but it will be sure to impress. Alternatively bag a bargain with the three-course lunch menu at just £21 a head.

Dining experience ****

Waiters are well dressed and att­entive, if slightly slow. But who wants to rush a good meal? It’s a warehouse vibe, so the bar is big and uber-cool. Up front (before the check-in and coat check) is also suited for an aperitif or even a casual meeting with nibbles.

Chances of a last-minute booking ****

You’ll want to book a few days in advance for a primetime slot on a Thursday, Friday or weekend, but you’ll be able to sneak in and be accommodated most of the time.

Client wow factor ****

I don’t have the fear factor here. I know they will do a good job and impress. Even my American clients like the vibe, service and food (a good benchmark).

Overall ****

Sophisticated decor, quality grub and great atmosphere minus the snobbery.

Reviewed by Ian Hall, director, Grammatik

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