The Potato Merchant, London’s first restaurant and grocer specialising in potatoes, has recently opened at Exmouth Market. I had a nice dinner there recently and thought the restaurant would be worth keeping in mind for locals looking for a thoughtful take on the UK’s favourite starchy staple.
Folks visiting from beyond Britain’s shores might assume the vast majority of eateries in this city already specialise in potatoes. Chips have got to be the most likely sidekick to any meal – whatever the time of day or occasion. Jacket potatoes abound. And no one at any time is probably ever more than, say, 50 metres from a packet of crisps. There’s pie and mash, pies topped with mash … etc etc etc.
I’m being somewhat facetious. Potatoes are, obviously, popular all over the world, not just in Britain. And honestly, I can’t think of anyone I know who doesn’t enjoy eating them at least a couple of times a week. In a way, the humble potato is the perfect food. It’s filling and healthy (depending on how it’s cooked), versatile and suitable for practically any type of dish or cuisine and has over the centuries adapted to grow in a range of climates and conditions.
Of course, not all spuds are made alike. And that’s where the Potato Merchant comes in. One might think there’s a lot of potato action going on in commercial kitchens across the UK, but in actuality only a very few varieties are ever used. Sure, Potato Merchant co-owners Ronnie Truss and David Miney might not necessarily be planning to eschew completely everyday taters such as the Maris Piper or Jersey Royals, but their hope is to introduce and wow customers with lesser known potatoes like the Arran Victory and the Shetland Black.
I had a satisfactory visit at the Potato Merchant a couple of Friday nights ago. Prices were reasonable with small starter/tapas-style dishes priced around £5 and larger main course dishes hovering near £10. Service was friendly (maybe a little harried for what seemed to me to be moderately brisk turnover). The comfortable dining area had a smartly tempered rustic feel that was pleasant (if rather dark). And, most importantly, the food was tasty. I especially liked the black pudding croquettes (£5.50) and could see myself craving them again soon. Everything else was good but nothing overwhelmingly so, and there was no one thing (I sampled several items from the menu) that really shouted out the wonders of the potato to me.
I’m happy to recommend this place to anyone who ploughs through Exmouth Market and that bit of Clerkenwell on a regular basis. The restaurant does brekkie, lunch, dinner and even offers potato vodkas and other tuber-based spirits such as sweet potato shochu.
The Potato Merchant is located at 55 Exmouth Market, EC1 4QL. Find out more online at potatomerchant.com.
Image courtesy of the restaurant