Located in the middle of Ratchada-Rama 4, El Mercado is a hidden little gem in the city. Open for lunch and dinner, the place is often packed and can be quite difficult to find a table if you don’t book beforehand (especially at the weekends). Housed in a converted old home, the décor in itself is very simplistic and European, but the very personal and intimate feel created through the food, lighting and the staff themselves is what makes it a tremendously good place to enjoy a meal with friends. While the service can get a little slow at the weekend and at dinner times because of how busy it can get, there is a good ambience and you really feel the love and care that has gone into it as a restaurant and a delicatessen.
Upon approaching El Mercado, you enter under colourful, lightbulb shaped, fairy lights into an open courtyard, and on your left is the building that holds the chilled wine room, ahead of you the main building houses the cheeses, cold cuts, desserts, etc. There are plenty of tables located both outside and in, depending on if you make a booking and or if you show up early enough. As it starts to get dark the place starts buzzing with people and laughter, and is quite the little hidden hub. Though the entrance is right off the street, you don’t get a sense that you are near a road but rather an undisturbed centre in the middle of the city.
They do not have a set menu printed out (apart from the wine and drinks list), but rather a large blackboard hanging on a wall outside facing the entrance, so depending on where you’re seated you will need to get up! The menu itself has various options – from both the sea and land, in addition to various sides, salads, pastas, risottos and desserts, but it is most definitely the fresh seafood and extensive cheese selection that are the stars of the show.
The seafood, which includes a mixture of crustaceans and fish are selected by their own fishmongers in France and Spain, it arrives three times a week directly, and is chosen to perfection. If you do want the best of the best on the menu, I’d suggest getting a table for before 7:30pm or for lunch, as they only have a limited number of each item, and the favourites run out quickly! We always get a fish and a few oysters, in addition to whatever else takes our fancy, and there is definitely no shortage of choice. The oysters themselves are easily some of the freshest oysters that I have ever had, and there is always a handful of choices – that differ in size, taste and where they’re from. Don’t expect something immensely extravagant from the menu in that it is plated and decorated to perfection, as I personally think it is about the aroma and flavours with a very home cooked and rustic feel is what makes them special.
The cheese and cold cut selection is absolutely divine, and you’re able to go up to the cheese and cold cut fridge, pick what you would like and have them whip up a cheese and cold cut board right in front of you for your table. As self-proclaimed cheese-o-holics, my family and I are often exploring different cheeses from different regions, regularly going back to stock up on our selection. An objective of theirs is to engage in a ‘cheese-education’ of sorts, allowing customers to appreciate and discover a variety of new cheeses. The staff themselves have great recommendations on what to try and have a selection of cheeses for you to taste above the counter. My favourite thing off of the whole dairy and cold cut selection is probably the parmesan, truffle salami ball – a mix of my favourite cold cut and cheese and I’d definitely recommend you try it too!