13A N Audley St, Mayfair, London W1K 6ZA. www.mercatometropolitano.com
Where we sample seafood and cocktails in a grand former church
Enter the Grade-I listed St Mark’s building and be wowed by intricate stonework and stunning stained-glass windows.
Previously a house of worship, the visually striking site is now home to Mercato Metropolitano, a street food market, cultural hub, and community enterprise.
The concept originated in 2015, and first saw the light of day in a 150,000 square foot disused railway station in Milan.
Following a successful four-month pilot period where customer spend was in excess of Ã¢â€šÂ¬8 million, a permanent spot opened in Elephant & Castle. And now, just a skip away from Selfridges, the capital’s second location is welcoming hungry punters.
The historic Mayfair property was built in 1822 and served as the neighbourhood’s place of prayer until 1974, when falling congregation numbers led to its deconsecration. Following a massive £5 million renovation, it recently reopened after decades in private ownership.
Covered by the MManifesto, the ethos of the operation is simple, based on a set of goals promoting’shared values and collective action towards a more sustainable future for all’.
These include every individual having a right to food, protecting the environment, safeguarding small-scale artisanal production, and educating citizens.
Inside the West End outpost, visitors take a handful of steps through the well-stocked store selling all manner of interesting seasonal produce, before pushing through double doors into the high-ceilinged main room. There’s no shortage of original, characterful features Ã¢â‚¬â€œ think nave, altar, and side chapel.
Filling the grandiose space are a host of vendors taking influence from around the globe (not just Italy as the name suggests).
Split over two floors traders include Turkish pide by LaLa, gelato from Badiani, Steamy & Co. serving up bao and dumplings, Molo with fish buns, Pasta London, Fresca with Neapolitan pizza, sushi and poke bowls from Raw Bar, and Santo Grill and Wine bringing steak and burgers.
To drink, there are mixologists Jim and Tonic, German Kraft pouring pints into tankards, and a wine cellar in the basement crypt. That subterranean level is also available for locals to hold events.
But we’re here to try seafood and cocktails at Cha Cha, the younger sibling of Boca Cha Cha in Little Venice Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a restaurant whipping up Mediterranean fare with a Latin twist.
Their first-floor unit entices diners with an aroma of roses Ã¢â‚¬â€œ dried petals are scattered across the bar Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and a scorching metal plate, where the chef cooks to order.
The concise menu lists offerings such as tempura shrimp with Sriracha mayo, platters piled with scallops, palourde clams, and blue mussels, and specials of oysters with shallots, and seared king prawns.
But we’re drawn to their octopus Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Ã¢â‚¬Å“a best-sellerÃ¢â‚¬Â, enthusiastic member of staff Dimitri informs. Served a la plancha (grilled), tender slices and tentacles mingle with blackened lemon, charred new potatoes, garlicky salsa verde, and a smattering of warming chilli flakes.
The lobster roll catches our eye too: we wolf down hunks of translucent crustacean between homemade bread from Nina MÃƒÂ©tayer Ã¢â‚¬â€œ spread liberally with crab mayo and dotted with baby gem lettuce, it’s a winning combo of flavours.
Accompanying the plates, we enjoy a duo of expertly-made tipples: Paso Doble (Bayou reserve rum with chambord, lime juice, cardamom, and cherries) is boozy yet infinitely drinkable, while the aged barrel negroni with Theodore gin, Cocchi Spumanti, and Belsazar red vermouth has a moreish and sweet sherry-like aftertaste Ã¢â‚¬â€œ it disappears swiftly.
We finish the evening with a shot of Bumbu, a hand-blended Caribbean rum made using native ingredients from across the West Indies. S
mooth, and with notes of banana and exotic fruit, the liberal measure slips down easily. Ã¢â‚¬Å“It’s generous, rich, spicy, and full-bodied like us,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Dimitri.
Open daily from 8am at More info here.