Mercado was genuinely one of the most delicious vegetarian dining experience I’ve had this year.  I expected super fine, light food - but instead got hearty, refined dishes that were so packed of flavour, it was easy for my partner to join me on the vegetarian menu without feeling left out.

We enjoyed a bottle of amazing French wine from a region quite close to where I will be moving to in France in November.  Why not celebrate at any chance.

The best dish of the night, for me, was the eggplant and burrata.  Now, I’m not a fan of eggplant usually - it think it takes a good chef to make it work - and well, this worked. The eggplant was full of spice, not hot spice, that rich “I’m somewhere in a back street in Morocco” spice.  It was soft, rich and almost sticky - it was amazing.  Then, breaking open the burrata to lighten up the rich eggplant and scooping that onto thin, crisp slices of bread - I’m going to have to go back for this.

The pumpkin ravioli was really surprising.  The pasta had a really unique texture - almost ‘dumpling’ like which was odd, but delicate. The filling was also WAY better than any I’ve had before - no bright orange mashed pumpkin here - again, the toasty colour was matched with flavour.  There had obviously been a LOT going on with this pumpkin before it was made into pasta - its this stuff that takes a dish from “nice” to “impressive”.  I was impressed.

Dessert was amazing.  I tried the Chocolate Mousse as I know it had rave reviews at Taste - but I have to say that for me, the Rose Meringue was the best. It was so floral, and anyone who knows me knows that you throw some flower in anything and I’m obsessed.  Did I share it?  No!  Did I want to marry it? Yes.

Overall, I was SUPER impressed with Mercado.  I love the fact that everything was well thought out, each mouthful had been created consciously… no “okay” here, everything has been worked on until it was “perfect.”

Mercado is now on my list of “must visit every time I come back from France” and I’ll be dreaming of that burrata for months to come.

I was also lucky enough to interview Chef Nathan Sasi about Mercado and everything that goes on behind the scenes in a restaurant of such high standing;

I was surprised to see such a great range of interesting dishes that were vegetarian on your menu! Do you intentionally add a range of vegetarian dishes or is it just something that happened when you created this menu?

I think the mark of a good chef is someone that can create interesting and delicious dishes from vegetables. Anyone can throw an incredible piece of meat on the bbq and serve it simply, which always has its place, but when you take a rather inexpensive item like a vegetable and create a lasting memory, then that shows real skill. 

Are you able to give me an idea of how you go about creating the Mercado menu?  Is it something you set aside time for specifically or do ideas come to you throughout your general day to day work?

We work with a lot of small growers, farmers and producers plus we got to Flemington markets once a week, so the changing seasons and what our suppliers have on hand generally dictate what we cook. Inspiration comes from many different places in the modern kitchen. Social media and seeing what other chefs are cooking drives creativity, I also try and push all our chefs to eat out as much as possible, how can you cook good food, if you don’t eat good food. 

Although I’m vegetarian, I recognised the outstanding quality of all dishes on the menu. What’s your personal favourite Mercado dish you’ve created of all time?

One of Mercado’s owners, Steve Anastasiou has been raising heritage breed pigs on a farm just outside Oberon to supply us with at the restaurant. These animals live a very happy life, they are reared organically and 100% free range. We utilise every single component of the animal and currently we cook porchetta with all the trimmings stuffed in the middle cooked on our rotisserie. This is by far one of my favourite dishes on the menu at the moment.

What’s next for Mercado’s menu?  Anything in the works that I should keep my eye out for?

Spring is just around the corner which is my favourite season of the year. I love working with peas, broad beans, and whole lambs which we buy from Milly Hilly in northern NSW. We change 50% of our menu every three months so we’ve got some great new dishes about to arrive. 

What’s your favourite ingredient at the moment?  What’s on top of your food order each week?

I’ve just started using a new oyster supplier which works with oyster farmers all around Australia to source and distribute the best possible oysters they can find. One week it might be coffin bays the next Blue Moon pacific's. I recently tried an oyster they source from Merimbula called blue emerald. These oysters have an incredible blue frill which comes from the oyster eating a type of blue algae, these taste incredible and look divine. 

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