“Taberna do Mercado in London’s Old Spitalfields Market is a joint effort between chefs Nuno Mendes and Antonio Galapito to capture and reinterpret Portuguese food & flavours whilst championing specially sourced Portuguese ingredients”
Yesterday, we had lunch at Taberna do Mercado. It is a modest place right at the entrance to Old Spitalfields Market. The table was booked for noon which was in front of the bar in a rustic looking room. A glass fronted dinning area directly faced the interior of busy Old Spitalfields Market. The counter had plates of pasteis de nata – Portuguese custard tarts. Two Japanese tourists were bent over them, taking photographs with a mobile phone. A group of men sat in one corner drinking Super Bock out of tall slim glasses shaped like champagne flutes.
We ordered a bottle of Vale de Capucha Alvarinho 2013, an organic, natural wine made without additives by “rising star” Pedro Marques. His vineyards, planted with Indigenous Portuguese grape varieties – Arinto, Fernão Pires, Alvarinho, Gouveio on kimmeridgian limestone with clay on the Lisbon coast are only 8 km from the Atlantic ocean. I had not had an Alvarinho from Lisboa and was keen tautest one. The bottle however had a hint of TCA. The sommelier apologised and quickly replaced it. The wine was quite different from Alvarinho from Vinho Verde or Albarino from Galicia – darker in colour, more textured and with crisper acidity and less marked fruit.
A series of exciting tapas dishes constituted lunch, the Vale de Capucha complementing each one of them. Bulhao Pato (Green bean fritters), Chouriço vinho tinto (Black pork with red wine chorizo), Paleta Porco Preto (cured ham), House Tinned Fish (monkfish and mackerel), Mushrooms, Squid, Salads, Azeitao (unpasteurised,handcrafted, soft, strong sheep’s milk cheese with semi-soft consistency made with locally grown cardoon plant as the coagulant in the foothills of the Arrábida Mountains in the south west of Portugal), wonderful griddle-toasted bread drizzled with olive oil and Custard Tarts were consumed with glee. After the meal, some drank Super Bock and others, strong black coffee.
Then a glass of 1973 White Port from Casa de Santa Eufemia was poured. It had the colour of an aged Tawny after decades in chestnut casks, was elegant with aromas of honey, hazelnut, almonds and plums, was perfectly balanced and had a long and persistent finish. It was like no other white port I have drunk. The sommelier leaned over me and whispered “It is on the House. Happy Birthday!“