After nearly 100 years, the Sheraton Park Lane has just had a massive, massive refurbishment, doing over all 303 of its rooms and spawning two new restaurants. Carla and I were invited to try Mercante, which was handy as we were due a catch-up and it’s pretty much bang in between Putney and Islington.
The hotel itself is absolutely gorgeous (I had a snoop taking the long way round to the loos), but with its close proximity to Buckingham Palace and prestigious location on the posh end of the Monopoly board, it’s the kind of place that teems with wealthy tourists. In short, the kind of the place where you expect to be ripped off, so we were surprised to find a two-course meal on offer for the suspiciously reasonable price of £15 (or three for £20). Plus unlimited prosecco for an extra £15.
In we went then. Although Mercante manages to avoid that awful ‘hotel restaurant’ feel – you know, when the air is thick with the ghosts of people who paid £18 a head for a sub-par breakfast buffet – the place is still quite new and so relatively quiet. I ached for some nice background music but perhaps the sound system hadn’t been installed yet. I suspect it won’t stay quiet for long. The food is simple but everything we tried was made fresh with clearly high quality ingredients – which is obviously what Italian food is all about.Being a big ol’ basic bitch, I began with the avocado and eggs on toast with basil oil and an avalanche of zippy baby tomatoes so red they were almost lurid.
There was only one vegetarian option on the Secondi menu – baffling, as the Italians do veggie dishes so bloody well – and it had eggs in it, so Carla chose the only non-meat, eggless option on the menu for her first course. (Note to chef: perhaps have a little think about the veggie menu experience – nobody needs two lots of uova in one sitting!)
The piadina – like a tortilla wrap – was stuffed with roast Med veggies, soft robiola cheese and finished with a good glug of truffle oil, which made it a bit of a knife ‘n fork jobbie but no bother.
Secondi are substantial – the porchetta is basically a roast dinner and came with some big strips of crackling that I tried to ignore (on a diet. Sorta.) but ended up nibbling to extinction. The meat was good and moist, but the traditionalist in me wanted some gravy – a good slosh would have made it perfect.
Pappa al pomodoro – a Tuscan specialty, apparently – was…kind of weird. Good weird. It’s a heavyweight soup of bread and tomatoes; topped, in this case, with Parmesan, basil and an egg poached at the magical 65 degrees. It looks like gourmet baby food but, on a crisp November afternoon, it’s exactly the kind of comfort eating you fancy.
I can’t say I’m an expert in sous-vide cooking, but I do know it produces the most beautifully syrupy yolks…
We shared a dolci, a tangy little lemon and raspberry pot that was dinky enough to do nicely for sweet-Scrooges like Carla and me. I know it’s de rigueur in London to charge punters through the bumhole for puddings these days, so an extra fiver is relatively good value, but if you are the kind of person who prefers their puddings in door-stopper format you may be better off pottering over to Soho for a salted caramel biskie or sourdough doughnut.
The bottomless brunch craze rages on with the kind of gay abandon usually reserved for runaway trains, bulls in china shops, pantless children, etc., and this one offers such sterling value I’d be surprised if it didn’t do well. In the meantime, get in while it’s quiet. Take some of your loudest girlfriends, get (respectably) sloshed and order the pork.
Mercante, Sheraton Grand London Park Lane Hotel, Piccadilly, London, W1J 7BX
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in Islington and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.