Kirsten Durward and Monica Tindall
Mercat is one of our favourite little finds, perched on the pavement opposite Bangsar Village II. From the first we were in raptures over the creatively styled food but now that wine and other drinks are offered, Mercat offers a true expression of not just Spanish, but particularly Barcelonian hospitality at its best. If you’ve ever hankered to visit the colourful Catalonian capital, save yourself a flight and potter along for a few hours at Mercat to soak up the sensation of a Barcelona evening right here in Kuala Lumpur.
|Wines by the Glass|
Our appetites are quickly stimulated by a trio of traditional taste ticklers accompanied by some typically Barcelonian aperitifs. Fleshy house marinated Spanish Olives (RM16++) tingle on the tongue just enough before bursting their distinct flavours inside the mouth. Ensalada Rusa (RM16++) is a lot less rustic than I am used to for this dish; a smooth blend of tuna with potatoes and carrots topped with teeny chopped egg and slithers of ripe pepper is perfect for loading up on a slice of dense bread and sinking your teeth into. Mmmmm. Mejillones (RM23++) are served in a wine sauce with a scattering of leeks adding a distinct flavour. In true Mediterranean style, roll up your sleeves, eschew cutlery and sip your mussel directly out of the shell. Then use the shell to slurp up some winey soup and grab a chunk of bread to mop up the rest. Messy but sexy, I promise!
As we chomp and slurp, we learn that Sangria is scorned by natives and only served to tourists. Traditionally Sangria was concocted to hide spoiled wine. The addition of brandy and fruit hides any sour or bitter taste. Fascinating… Thus the sophisticated drinker in Barcelona will request a Tinto de Verano, which co-owner, Jorge, assures us means that you can wake up the next day with a smile, no headache and fully remembering what happened the night before. Mercat’s take on the Tinto de Verano (carafe RM99++ glass RM33++) is a light dry sparkling concoction of red wine enhanced with vermouth bubbling in a generous balloon glass. The light taste is refreshing on a warm afternoon, but the drink lingers nicely with a full, husky expression on the back of the throat. Vermouth is patently a popular drink in Barcelona and it features prominently on Mercat’s aperitif menu. Red Vermouth preparado (RM35++) is reminiscent of a very light Negroni. With the addition of aromatic bitters and tonic water, one expects bitterness but finds smoothness with just a touch of frizzante freshness. On the fruitier side is White Vermouth preparado (RM39++), where the warm aromatics of Sloe Gin and the zest of orange bitters produces a mist that lingers for a pleasant while.
|White Vermouth Apéritif|
Tapas at Mercat is a true smorgasbord for vegetarians and carnivores alike. Escalivada (RM19++) had me fooled; I’ve never seen flame roasted vegetables served like this. A fabulously filling option for a vegetarian tapas seeker: a mix of vegetables roasted in the skin then scooped out, mixed with plenty of olive oil, presented on rustic bread. The smoky taste and dense texture will fill every corner of a hungry mouth. Retaining a beautiful smoky taste, then smeared on bread, Berenjena (RM17++) is a more refined dish. Again an unexpected presentation with a light herby mousse of goats cheese and roasted aubergine, scooped into quenelles has to be tasted to be believed. Heavenly.
Both the Aubergine dishes with their smoky tones are excellent choices to pair with the Malacapa Rioja Tempranillo (RM168++ /RM31++) that Monica is nursing. We’ve all enjoyed its playfulness, with light tannins on the front of the tongue but a good zingy gritty burr on the back of the throat. If you are ready for something truly rustic you might also want to try the budget conscious house red, Bayan Negra Vino Tinto Tempranillo (RM110++ /RM21++). I particularly like it as it invokes the dusky tastes reminiscent of Spanish dirt roads on a hot summer day. It’s a more brusque wine, but very typical of Spain and worth a try with the stronger flavoured dishes. All this tippling is bringing out residual memories of travel in rural Spain all around the table.
|Spanish Red Wine|
Cold cuts are always a crowd pleaser and Tartar de Jamon Iberico (RM59++) does not disappoint. The dense richness of the Spanish ham blended through with strong olive oil, slithers easily through the lips and crunches well on a slender Melba style toast.
51 Jalan Telawi 3
Bangsar Baru, 59100
+6 032 201 5288