Market rarely disappoints. I can say that, having eaten within its understated walls regularly over the years, and at different times of both day and week.
The small, simple space, all exposed brick and salvaged-style chairs, opened up back in 2007. It won some rave broadsheet reviews, quietly built up a loyal following, and then bagged a swanky Michelin Bib Gourmand for “good cooking at moderate prices”.
The brief menu, devised by head chef Richard Teague, is seasonal and no-frills: salt beef with mash, sea bream and anchovy, whole plaice with tartare. And there are just a handful of choices each day, with no sermons about provenance or supporting local suppliers (although fish and veg are both sourced from within the postcode). You somehow trust that owner Denise Tang cares about every detail, with the emphasis on all the right things, as it is in good restaurants the world over.
I felt compelled to write this review after a spontaneous visit on a Thursday evening, when many of the dishes bordered on perfection. Our starters could have won a contest for the two prettiest dishes in NW1: crab avocado gazpacho was smooth, creamy, sweet-toothed heaven, while super-pillowy scallops were given added crunch by apple and kohlrabi, with a touch of fire from a sliced black radish.
Mains continued the ascent: half our table plumped for the tried-and-tested Aberdeenshire onglet, a classic dish at Market, and one we’ve eaten irregularly over the last half-decade. It was as rosy and heady as ever, with moreish skin-on fries and rich homemade aioli. Perfect with the house red, too. Yet more memorable still was rabbit loin with gnocchi, celeriac, broad beans and pancetta: a slippery, spring-infused bowl of earthy, tender and salty flavours in lip-smacking harmony.
Slightly less impressive? The chalked-up special of braised ox cheeks with mash, a tad under-seasoned and lacking the textural juxtaposition of our other choices.
The only inexplicable thing about the place is that it’s often quieter than might be expected. But perhaps that’s because we always think it’s going to be busy and show up late – after a drink or two at the Black Heart, perhaps – or grab an early table, before a post-prandial mojito at the Spiritual bar.
And dog-lovers will appreciate the restaurant’s canine-friendly sensibilities. In Parisian brasserie style, house pooch Bronte the cavachon (a little like a bichon frise) is a real presence, languishing on the floor, or wriggling on her back for a tummy rub.
So, maybe you’ve walked blithely past Market dozens of times in the last seven years without quite realizing how good it is. Next time, I say: stop.