Mercer Tavern has been open for more than two years, but the food program has been inconsistent. Although it’s just down the street from our condo, Mercer definitely became more of a watering hole than a dinner destination for us. For that reason, when Mack and I were invited to a media dinner last week, we were both interested to see what changes have been made.
Mack with his Old Fashioned
Chef Robbie Oram, who had worked at Sage most recently in Edmonton, joined Mercer Tavern about ten months ago. Prior to that, he was the travelling chef for the Tragically Hip, and cooked at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing during the Olympics. With that experience, he has sought to elevate Mercer Tavern’s menu from the ground up. He relayed his desire to source more ingredients locally, though shared that this is a challenge in the winter months.
The first dish we sampled was a testament to the fact that, depending on availability, some seasonal dishes could only be served as short-term specials. The Moroccan-inspired carrot salad had been on the menu for a brief time in December, and wonderfully showcased Chef Oram’s desire to let the ingredients speak for themselves. Baby carrots from Greens, Eggs and Ham had been tossed in spices and roasted just long enough to warm through, allowing the vegetables to remain crisp. They were then topped with Reclaim Farm microgreens and served with a balancing dollop of Fairwinds Farm goat yogurt.
Moroccan-inspired carrot salad
The menu also focused on comfort foods. The table couldn’t get enough of the MFC, or Mercer Fried Chicken. Brined for 24 hours, the exterior was fried to a deliciously seasoned crisp, while the meat underneath remained moist and juicy. Although it was served with a honey sriracha, most agreed the chicken didn’t need any accompaniment.
The white cheddar mac and cheese was a solid dish, though fairly basic. There was a bit of heat from Serrano chilies, and the pasta had been well sauced (something, as we’ve found in this city, is not always a given). The added texture from the toasted breadcrumbs was appreciated.
Mac and cheese
For dessert, Chef Oram brought out the liquid nitrogen to make crème fraiche ice cream as we looked on. He said the ability to instantly freeze the crème fraiche meant a smoother end product.
Chef Robbie Oram
The pea-sized pellets were used to top individual mason jars of apple crumble. In many ways, it was easier to eat this form of ice cream with the crumble than more traditional scoops.
Apple crumble with crème fraiche ice cream
Most of the items we had that night can be found on the Mercer Tavern’s present menu, though we were told to expect more additions in the future.
The changes are promising on the menu end, and if the kitchen is able to execute these dishes with consistency, they will be well on their way to improving their reputation of what diners can expect. In warmer months, it will be interesting to see what other locally-sourced products make their way into the kitchen. Thanks again to Mercer Tavern for having us!
10363 104 Street
Monday-Friday 11am-late, Saturday-Sunday 11am-2am