Upper Street Islington is heaving with eateries which have come and gone over the years. Le Mercury, a French restaurant offering reasonably priced meals for lunch, pre-theatre and evenings, has stood the test of time. They have been prominent on the street for over thirty years now since 1985. Their menu provides a small selection of well executed French brasserie style dishes at very reasonable prices for London. If you’re searching for a French restaurant Islington, French bistro Islington or restaurants near Almeida Theatre do give Le Mercury a try.
“Charming French restaurant serving a well-executed bistro menu at affordable London prices, a popular and well-loved Islington institution,” Homegirl London
Le Mercury French Restaurant Islington Menu
This restaurant specialises in bistro food at great prices. The menu is concise but offers all you need to experience French cuisine which includes meat, poultry, fish and vegetarian dishes. I went to Le Mercury recently with five women one lunch time for a birthday celebration and everyone found the selection ample. For starters there is soup of the day which happened to be vegetarian on our visit. A couple of people ordered the mussels which they thoroughly enjoyed. They commented on the quality of the mussels, saying they were fresh and juicy. The white wine and cream sauce was expertly seasoned with shallots, garlic, lemon and parsley. This seemed to be the favourite starter. The other seafood dish was deep fried calamari with homemade tartar sauce which was simple but well cooked. Or you could try the crayfish and lobster ravioli with spinach and shellfish sauce.
Meaty starters were ham hock mustard terrine with spicy beetroot relish and toast. Chris tried the beef carpaccio with capers, red pepper relish and wild rocket salad which she enjoyed. I was happy to see a couple of vegetarian options of grilled goat’s cheese with salad and a drizzle of pesto which I ate. Alternatively, it was white wine poached pear with blue cheese, roast walnuts and balsamic reduction. There were nine starter options in total which included baked Camembert with toast to share if there were four people willing to opt in.
You have a choice of ten mains. For seafood it’s smoked haddock and salmon fishcake with wilted spinach and shellfish chive sauce. The pan-fried sea bass fillet comes with crushed new potatoes and minted pesto. They also had seared fillet of Scottish salmon accompanied with broccoli and a lobster sauce. For more of a French experience try the guinea fowl breast on garlic potato puree and green peppercorn sauce. Or the Barbary duck breast with the potato puree and savoy cabbage plus a red wine jus. Meaty options are slow roasted honeyed pork belly, braised neck of lamb or rib eye steak with a shallot sauce.
Vegetarian mains are pan fried black quinoa with spring onions, radish, cucumber and egg mimosa (stuffed hard boiled eggs). I didn’t fancy a boiled egg so went for the mushroom risotto with grated Parmesan topped with wild rocket. This was very good with big slices of mushrooms, it very creamy and the portion size was descent.
The dessert offering is full of crowd pleasers like Crème Brulee, banoffee pie, sticky toffee pudding, lemon tart or dark chocolate tart. Most of these were served with a side of vanilla ice cream. Three people went for the Crème Brulee and gave it the thumbs up. They thought the custard base was perfect although one person did comment that they would have liked a thicker hard caramel layer on top. Drinks wise it’s a concise wine list of white and red wines plus prosecco, two champagnes, a dessert wine and port. They also have a few cocktails.
Overall, the food is a good standard for a lunch time catch up with friends or a leisurely business meeting. It’s also great for pre-theatre meals if you’re heading to the Almeida Theatre or even Sadler’s Wells. After the theatre lot have departed they turn the lights down low. That’s when you can cosy up with your lover in the candlelight and share a bowl of mussels and a glass of wine. It gets quite busy in the evenings so it’s good to book.
Le Mercury French Restaurant Islington Interiors
The original restaurant (remember there are two) at 140A Upper Street is situated on a corner with expansive windows. It has a quaint exterior with an old fashioned appearance painted in a dramatic black gloss. It’s somewhat let down by the laminated menus in the window which I wish they would remove because it spoils the building.
Inside it’s cosy and is spread out over three floors. It’s nice to sit downstairs because you can people watch. The walls are painted yellow with contrasting pale blue on the pillars. They have a few decorative objects and plants dotted around and a lovely ornate mirror hung on the wall. The space is quite relaxing and reminiscent of a typical French bistro. A bit of a turn off for me were the paper table cloths which could be replaced with brown paper secured with clips as in other restaurants who don’t want to use linen. The paper serviettes were also low quality which could do with an upgrade. Other than those small improvements it’s a great place for a descent French lunch or dinner in the heart of Islington.
Le Mercury French Restaurant Islington Information
Cuisine: French bistro
Price: Starters £4.45, mains £10.95, desserts £3.45, 2 course set menu £9.95 and 3 course set menu £11.95 (certain times and days for the set courses)
Website: Le Mercury
Address: Original restaurant is located at 140A Upper Street, London N1 1QY
Near: The closest station is Highbury and Islington and then Angel. You are near Lower Holloway, Essex Road and Canonbury areas. Almeida Theatre, Sadler’s Wells and Islington Vue cinema are close by
Open: Monday to Saturday 12 noon-1am and Sunday 12 noon until 11pm
Wi-Fi: Sorry, didn’t notice as was dining with friends, it’s not really a place where you can get your laptop out so please retrain yourself!
Décor: French bistro cosy style
Seating: Over three floors
Reservations: Can book via telephone which you should do for the evening
Service Charge: We were charged 10% for group of six
Author: Homegirl London. Photographs: Homegirl London. Thanks: Wolfie, Chris, Louise, Lulu and Lucy for letting me take photographs of their food.