Stratford's got a new 'it-place' this summer: Mercer Hall.
The street level of Mercer Hall Inn in was once the site of Tango Cafe...
...after much anticipation and a serious facelift, it's been transformed into a hip winebar.
Featuring an unbelievable cocktail menu (including some must-trys like seasonal/local strawberry-rhubarb mojitos!) the bar alone is going to be reason enough to become a regular. To help patrons make the most out of their outstanding wine list they've also got a nifty device known as an an Enomatic: an incredible bottle of wine can now be opened to pour a glass or two, then kept for future wine lovers to enjoy inside a chamber filled with nitrogen (preventing oxidization, wine's enemy).
To our delight, Lisa and I were invited for Mercer Hall's soft opening: the chef and management wanted to make sure they got everything perfect so they invited some of the local food community to come try a small-plates preview menu, giving the kitchen and serving staff the opportunity for a dress rehearsal!
Front-of-house star Jessie told us to pick a few dishes to try - but no matter what we had to have the seared divers scallops. They were cooked and seasoned to absolute perfection, highlighting a balanced composition that also included a smoked celeriac puree and a zingy wild leek pesto. Take it from us: Whatever Jessie tells you to try, GET IT!
My eye was immediately drawn to the menu's Beef Tartare and slow-cooked egg yolk. I can never seem to get it right when I try to achieve a perfectly soft and creamy yolk at home, so I'm going to just leave it Chef Tim and his team from now on, especially since they serve it on top of succulent chopped beef popping with little mustard seeds, served alongside some crispy crosshatched potato chips. Just: Wow.
We had the pleasure of being seated at the same table as Anne and Dave Campion, owners of Revel Caffe. We offered our sincere congrats to them for recently receiving the Stratford and District Chamber of Commerce Excellence Award for Hospitality! Then we all had a taste of Dave's mussels, which were at once smoky and spicy with a sauce flavoured with slices of chorizo sausage.
Anne tried the Manchego Fritters with thin sliced ham. Jessie told us how this Spanish cheese is usually hard when it's fully ripe but this version was quite young and therefore capable of being breaded and cooked to a soft consistency. Balanced in its salty/creamy/crispiness and reminiscent of Spanish tapas in its ingredients and presentation, we all agreed this dish was a total hit.
The next two offerings were created for sharing... the Burrata (Buffala mozzarella with a gorgeous creamy fresh cheese interior) will just get better and better as the local outdoor tomato-growing season unfolds.
The Mercer Hall kitchen team will be producing all sorts of cured meats, with a Charcuterie board that will be perfect for late night bites (the restaurant and bar will be open until 12 am!). Double smoked bacon, a terrine with pork done two ways, a rillette, and some cured ham... Mercer Hall is definitely representing Perth County pork country to the fullest!
Massive thanks to Jessie and Tim for inviting us to be among the first to enjoy the superlative menu and wine they'll be serving at Mercer Hall. Already open for lunch, the dinner menu will be available this week.