Simple, affordable food can be found at Le Mercury, a lovely no-frills French bistro in Islington. My sister, who has recently returned from a year of study in Copenhagen, was in town and we were keen to get some tasty grub that would satisfy without breaking the bank.
We window-shopped our way along Upper Street; Le Mercury is virtually equidistant from Angel and Highbury & Islington stations, which makes is pretty well connected. We wandered in for a late Saturday lunch to find the dining room busy but we were quickly welcomed and shown to a table.
The setting was ideal for a casual lunch as the surroundings were rustic and unpretentious while the service was prompt and friendly. The menu is simple with a fixed price for starters, mains and desserts, though there are a few seasonal specials that buck this trend. There were about eight options for both starters and main courses - plus one or two specials - which reflected the establishment’s French roots.
Our starters arrived promptly. The beef carpaccio was peppery and tender which was complimented beautifully by the rocket salad that it came with. The portion was ideal for whetting my appetite for the rest of the meal. My sister’s chévre salad was a generous slice of grilled goats cheese on a round of baguette with plenty of salad and lashings of nutty pesto. We found it very hard to decide what to have – I’ll have to return for the poached pears with walnuts and blue cheese.
As our empty plates had been whisked away, our mains arrived. The grilled duck breast was beautifully cooked; barely a hint of pinkness lingering in the meat with plenty of moisture still in the meat. I would have liked it to served slightly rare and would specify this next time. The accompaniments of finely sliced cabbage, garlic mash and delicious jus made for an extremely filling meal. No faults to mention on the roast saddle of lamb either – the meat was tender and juicy. It was served with grilled courgettes which provided a nice contrast.
Le Mercury would be ideal for a slap up family meal or get together with friends. The prompt, unobtrusive service could make it a winner for a quiet dinner date too. We enjoyed two courses for around £12 a head (though we didn’t peruse the wine list) so it provides great value as well as quality.
Le Mercury can be found at 140 Upper Street, Islington, London, N1 1QY Tel: 020 7354 4088. Starters: £3.95. Main meals: £8.95. Dessert: £2.95. Nearest Tube: Angel and Highbury & Islington.