For the third roast of the month of July, and to throw a map pin further afield, we headed into Lev and Claire’s neck of the woods, Clapham in South West London to a pub that does, according to the reviews, include something in the loos that will allow Francoise to potentially give her first 5/5 score for ambiance/atmosphere – the much coveted Dyson Airblade.
Joining us on this quest is the experienced bunch, the Magnificent Seven of Sunday Roast Questing Darren and Franc, Melinda, Lev, Suma and Maria and Claire.
What Other People are Saying
I am adding this new section of other people’s reviews. We do feel bad sometimes when our scoring is harsh, as sometimes we are grumpy, or it’s raining, or had a tricky train ride in. And often newcomers skew the rating by not having fair comparators to score against. So, here we go, just copying the review summary from Google.
Disclaimer. The views hereafter are not representative of the Quest for a Sunday Roast or any member of the Quest team.
“” A nice conversion with bar billiards, table footie and a pintable” - beerintheevening.com … ”The staff were extremely rude and obnoxious” - viewlondon.co.uk … ”Good home made food, small portions, pricey but worth it” - beerintheevening.com … ”Comfortable with good service and a nice atmosphere” - beerintheevening.com …”Disappointing in the extreme” - beerintheevening.com“
Hm. With that good-bad-okay-good-bad set of reviews digested here are our initial thoughts, and the rest of the review.
One write up did excite me though. On Wampit – “The Merchant is eclectic pub near Battersea rise spread over three levels which lead out onto a front patio. They serve a selection of beers including Sierra Nevada Brooklyn Lager and boast home-made quality pub food.” Brooklyn Lager being my favourite from back home in Hell’s Kitchen.
First thing to mention is that Melinda cried off sick a couple of hours beforehand. Negative 1 point for Melinda for not giving us time to fill her spaces with local questers. But onto the pub.
It was a hot day and the pub was bright and breezy with the windows and doors open. We were given far too much space for the original booking of 8, more like space for 10-12, which was nice. Although, in our two hours there the centre of the bar, a space capable of seating 20+, not a single diner was seated.
Okay, the menu (found here) was just plain weird. It was not organised by course. There was no starter/main/dessert/sharing section for you to choose from. There were no salads, or soups. The waiter joked that the only salad came with the grilled lamb skewers. Not what a vegetarian wants to hear, and not too dissimilar from one of my favourite scenes in Everything is Illuminated where the Ukrainians had never met a vegetarian before.
It seemed like a disorganised bar food menu (nachos, burgers, sandwiches), dotted with brisket, roast pork belly, and the oddity of all day brunch (eggs Benedict). NOT the Sunday roast menu we are used to.
Having no discernible course structure there were no obvious choices for starters other than the hummous and flatbread and the halloumi sticks, that Lev (the poor boy starving because of an earlier run) ordered.
Now, I will say this before we get to the comments section – the halloumi sticks were so good, especially when dipped in the parmigiana and cauliflower accompaniment, that we all partook and ordered a second portion.
From left to right (Lev – Brisket, Darren and Franc – Burger, Suma – Haddock, Claire – Pork belly, Maria – Non-meat veggie meatballs)
The beef brisket, veggie meatballs and pork belly came with roast potatoes, leeks, veggies all cooked in perhaps a mustard sauce, and Yorkshire puddings. The burgers came with stringy MacDonald’s like fries. The Haddock came with chunky chips.
From left to right – (Claire and Suma – Ice cream, Maria, Lev and Darren – upside down apple cake)
Note: there were only three dessert options on the menu, one of them being ice cream. Very poor.
Observations – Individual and Collective
- It was a strange menu. A mashup of bar food, lunch and brunch. Not what I would call a Sunday lunch menu – Darren.
- Lovely open space, bright with the breeze coming in through the doors – Darren.
- No real starters on the menu. No salads. More like diner food.
- Oh, wow! Suma after trying the halloumi sticks.
- I love halloumi – Franc.
- Do you agree this is good? Lev asking about the halloumi sticks. Claire just nodded, as she was eating.
- Halloumi sticks so good we ordered a second batch.
- When the mains came they were huge.
- This burger is perfect – Franc. But then she scaled her enthusiasm down. It was not Byron-tastic. She only ate half. The bun was toasted, which was nice, and the burger was cooked as asked. It was just a burger. Nothing special.
- This is amazing – Claire on the subject of her pork belly.
- The waiter was amiable and made recommendations. Although these did include getting the lamb if we wanted salad.
- I actually love this. It’s amazing – Suma.
- I don’t know what the veggies are cooked in, but they are awesome – Claire.
- This is so wonderful. I love it – Maria.
- Medium well was too well done, and the bun was burned on the bottom – Darren.
- Very nice. So Tender – Lev on his brisket.
- Lev with a mouthful. “Ish goo.” Darren asked “it’s good?”Lev nodded.
- Fries are crap. They are worse than McDonalds, more like Kebab shop fries. Needed thrice cooked chips – Darren.
- The veggie meat(less)balls are amazing which is why, even though stuffed, I am still eating – Maria.
- Maria needed to take a pause as she was enjoying it so much she was eating too fast and getting full too quickly.
- The gravy was really tasty, not like regular veggie gravy. It was herby.
- The veggies are amazing, and cooked in something, maybe French mustard – Maria.
- Perfect location – Lev. As he lives 3 mins away.
- The Halloumi sticks with secret cauliflower and cheese sauce was wonderful and we had to order more.
- The beef brisket was very tender and the accompaniment of the horseradish was great. The potatoes were okay. Yorkshire pudding was just average. Or maybe it is just that I don’t like them. Very nice addition of cooked vegetables. Didn’t like the gravy at all – Lev.
- The laminated menu put me off and I went for the burger as a result. I thought that anything complex, or as complex as a roast would be a fail. I was wrong. The roasts were a hit – Franc.
- Windows make for a nice airy lunch, the pub was cute and the staff were friendly, if a little bit vacant when we wanted them – Franc.
- This pub needs boardgames – Franc. We then pointed out a stack of boardgames including Harry Potter Cluedo.
- It did feel like airport bar food. What with the laminated menu we thought everything would be awful and most were pleasantly surprised. Although if I was served that mean in a gastropub I would send it back – Darren/Franc.
- I really like this space, very relaxed, no pretension - Claire.
- Food was really good. The pork belly fell apart, and whatever the veg was cooked in really kicked the flavour up a notch – Claire.
- The starter was very addictive. V good overall – Claire.
- Nice friendly service, the right level of attentiveness – Suma.
- Huge portions, which is a winner for me – Suma.
- Will certainly come back again – Suma. Who lives quite close, although not as close as Lev who said it was so close he HAD to come.
- Had the mushroom, sage onion and veggie ‘meatball’ roast which was nicely cooked. Veg was tossed in a lovely bs light dressing. The gravy was delicious and had hints of tomato and spices which complimented the meatballs and fluffy Yorkshire puds. Massive portions for main course, had to take a break to resume eating, to limit wastage. Large glasses of wine spritzers – win. All in all, good sunday lunch – Maria, summing it up nicely.
- Laid back and friendly atmosphere and staff. One of the servers recommended the halloumi starter after Lev enquired about it, which was a nice gesture – Maria.
- Between the courses the service disappeared – Darren.
- I refuse to accept this cake is upside down – Lev.
- Dessert tasted burnt – Darren.
- I think it’s nice – a rebuttal from Lev.
- The waiters just couldn’t be bothered! – Lev
- Upside down apple and strawberry cake was not good – Maria.
- Ditto – Darren.
- Hazelnut ice cream was fine! – Suma.
- Service dropped a few points soon after my previous comments – Maria.
- It was the second bar in a row we have been to where they didn’t remove the stalks of the fruit. The strawberries this time.
- The toilets are nothing special. I wouldn’t hang out there, if you know what I mean – Franc. Although we didn’t.
- The locks on the stalls didn’t work. The Airblade was the highlight unfortunately - Franc.
- Toilets may have had the much coveted Dyson Airblade, even continuing the theme of silver/grey walls with yellow trim, but they were sticky underfoot, stank of urine and were just not clean – Darren.
Would I go to the Merchant again? Maybe, but probably not. Would I eat there in the unlikelihood I did go again? No.
The sample of reviews from Google seemed to get it right. The place was hit and miss, with the missing clearly happening in the toilets, that stank so bad even the Dyson Airblade looked embarrassed to be there.
The menu is not well thought out. In fact it looks like no thought at all went into it. It is a mishmash of crowd favourites, and bar snacks with no real purpose. If they set themselves up to make 4-5 dishes, 4-5 starters and 3-4 desserts, plus a cheese plate then the food would be infinitely better. 26 items spanning all day breakfast, all day brunch, bar food, as well as roasts, it was a recipe for disaster.
And after all that, with the sun, the walk from the wrong station, the patchy service, the confusing messages coming from the menu, I forgot to order my damned Brooklyn Lager and we left looking forward to finding an ice cream van on Clapham Common on the way home.