Taberna do Mercado (Spitalfields): where Portugal conquered in small plates

I’ve always dreamt of travelling to Portugal to eat a heap load of fresh octopus and to surf on its magical waves. But before I’ve had any chance to look at flights, Portugal (or at least its food) came to London in the form of Taberna do MercadoNuno Mendes‘ new small-plates baby in Old Spitalfields Market.
We ordered the prawn rissois (£5 for 2) to start and I am transported to a few good memories: snacking on my favourite empanadas in Philippines; trying all sorts of curry puffs in Asia; overindulging in coxinhas from a local Brazilian bakery. Like all those good deep fried pastry filled with all things delicious, this put a smile on my face and we were off to a good start.
Our server recommended the quiejo da Serra da Estrella (£10), a runny sheep’s milk cheese hailing from the north mountainous region of Portugal. I’m a fan of sheep’s milk cheese and thought this was perfect for dipping the rustic grilled bread we were given so much of. 
The Paleta porco preto was quite a pleaser (£15). Fatty, salty with the teeniest hint of sweetness, this particular plate of cured meat didn’t have a pungent smell nor a lasting aftertaste (aka meat breath) the way chorizo does.
The house-tinned mackerel (£5), preserved in olive oil for up to two weeks, was punchy with tomato sofrito. Considering 1) I’m not the biggest fan of mackerel for its very fishy aftertaste, and 2) the fact that I hate tinned tomatoes, I liked this enough. Possibly cos there was only enough of it to have a wee taste.

Special of the day was a 100-day dry aged steak simply cooked off the grill. There’s nothing like a good piece of beef cooked to perfection, but I wonder whether our 200g cut was worth all £40 considering a third of it was fat. We’d be talking differently if they charred the fat longer so it would’ve been crispier… and edible.

Beef was served with some bread and tomato salsa/salad.
Another special of the day was the tuna w/ picadito algarvio. This made me think of a fish escabeche sans the sweetness. I thought the fish was cooked perfectly but needed a bit more seasoning.  

Runner bean fritters (£5) with bulhao pato – that’s clam broth – were quite moreish. The batter is reminiscent of tempura and the broth is something special. It’s light, crispy and an ideal thing to snack on.

The asparagus and fennel migas (£8) was a little bit too oily for my liking and lacked the asparagus taste I had hoped for. Granted it’s a subtly flavoured veg, but all I got was a heady case of bread and way too much fennel.

For dessert, we ordered the olive oil pao de lo (£12). This was definitely not a photogenic dish but it was definitely one of the highlights for me. It’s a super light sponge cake with what seems to be an underbaked centre. It’s sweet and slightly salty and so good that we had to order another one.

Overall, it was a bit of a hit and miss. Perhaps I came to Taberna thinking it was going to be over the moon fantastic, seeing the very #foodporn worthy shots on Instagram but to be honest I’m not sure how I feel about it… yet. The menu is ever so promising and inspired but somehow my first visit felt like a game of chances. Happy to give it another go and perhaps make my mind up then.

Oh, there wasn’t any octopus in the menu. Tears.

Taberna do Mercado
Old Spitalfields Market, 107b Commercial Street, London E1
Follow them on Twitter and on Instagram.
Click to add a blog post for Taberna do Mercado on Zomato Square Meal

You can follow new posts on The Girl Next Shore via Twitter and Instagram or by subscribing on Bloglovin. Have fun!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

6 Comments

  1. 18th August 2015 / 9:24 am

    Hmmmm that's a pity that it was so hit and miss – and no octopus on the menu?! Very sad. Agreed with you on the beef – I really don't like too much fat on meat.

    Lauren xx | The Lifestyle Diaries

    • 18th August 2015 / 10:38 am

      I was really hoping for octopus! I tend to go for lean meat, too like fillet/sirloin but I do like a good rib-eye from time to time… I just don't want it to be too sinewy and too fatty!

      See you tomorrow! x

  2. 18th August 2015 / 1:22 pm

    Hmm I have been wanting to check this place out but have heard some mixed reviews – the deep fried prawns would definitely be a hit with me, plus the cured meats and steak (although I wouldn't be ordering it at that price!). Seems like a lovely spot though so may well still check it out 🙂 Lots of love, Andrea xxx

    Andrea's Passions

    • 19th August 2015 / 3:47 pm

      I think we misheard them and thought it was 200g for £20! I don't mind paying premium if you can eat every piece of the meat and if it's a fantastic cut but if it's 1/3 fat… *shakes head* I'd still give it a second shot, though. Shall we? =D

  3. 25th August 2015 / 10:59 pm

    Ahaha no octopus definitely equals bitter disappointment! Hmm, most reviews I've seen of this place have been mixed so I'm glad you came to the same conclusion. Some of the dishes look very tempting but it's definitely a shame about the steak (£40?!) Ah well, I'll just have to try it out for myself 😉 xx

    • 26th August 2015 / 3:33 pm

      I would've justified paying £40 for a 200g steak that was wonderfully, deliciously, perfectly cooked all throughout but if a third of it is inedible… #SMH.

      And yes, very disappointed with the no-show octopus. =(
      Still worth a try, though! x