Is Mercat Negra Just a Basement?
While the Bond Street tapas restaurant Mercat is basking in the luminescence of Frank Bruni's recent glowing star, there's part of it that still is relatively kept in the dark. Supposedly there's a secret room in the back and down some stairs, called Mercat Negra. Suckers for anything with the patina of exclusivity, we checked it out last night. (Click image for the full comic.)
Good news: When we showed up at 9:30 there was a hefty wait for upstairs. The crowd, as we have previously noted, seemed straight out of the East 30s and they all wanted to sit down.
However, walking swiftly past the host, and descending the stairs in the back, we came across a smallish room with many empty tables. We rejoiced (inside our own heads) at the thought of the delights that might await us. Upon being seated, we were handed a list of dishes; beside each item, we were to check how much of each we wanted. Tuna tartare was 3 bucks. We got two. There were little crab toasts for 3 dollars too. We got three. In fact, we almost got everything on the menu, which isn't saying much, since it is extremely pared down from what is on offer upstairs. Cheeses, glasses of watermelon gazpacho, beet and carrot gazpacho, jamon, almonds. Like a steady stream of photons, you could beam this shit into my stomach all night and I wouldn't be full.
Next to us some weird couple was on a date. Across the room one of those ugly dudes who is always surrounded by models was surrounded by models. G. Love and Special Sauce played over hidden speakers. And yet, an essential dankness pervaded the room. I guess it was cooler than eating upstairs, though the menu was minimal. I mean, the people upstairs didn't know about the people downstairs so that was neat. But. What's the difference between oh-so-cool underground tapas and the not-so-cool experience of eating in the basement of a restaurant?