Merci Marie, Dalston: Officially my favourite restaurant in London

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The short version is, Merci Marie is a BYOB eatery in Dalston. It’s my favourite restaurant in London.

Now, for the slightly longer version…

Whenever people ask me to give them an example of the kind of ‘cool, quirky places’ I review in London, this is always the answer I give. “You’ve heard of Merci Marie, right?!”, I tend to enthuse, before inundating them with every tiny detail, regardless of whether they’re still listening or not – but as I grow more animated and excited, it’s hard for anyone to switch off.

And why would they want to? Everyone should know about this place. It’s a hidden little eatery, where one woman called …Marie (you saw that coming, right?) cooks everything herself from the kitchen which opens out into the dining space, so you can watch her chop and sauté from the comfort of your table. You can turn up, bottles of booze in hand (it’s BYOB), ready to get stuck in to amazing food in a beautiful atmosphere.

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You’ve probably worked this out, too, but Marie hails from the South of France, where she grew up cooking with her family and developing her cuisine-themed gift. I’ve been to Merci Marie so many times – well, seven in total – and have tried over forty of her dishes. Every single thing I’ve had has been incredible. The menu changes every week. I don’t know how she does it. On her own, whilst listening to music, totally chilled. Sometimes she knits, too. It’s enough to make any person feel totally void of cooking abilities.

The set-up of Merci Marie is another reason I love it so much. It’s in The Bootstrap Building which, to be brash, is basically an office block. It’s a wonderful place which supports start-ups in East London but, let’s call a spade a spade; it’s an office block. I love it – I took twenty of my friends to Merci Marie for my birthday last year. We arrived outside the building, about to climb the American-style fire escape and they were all “What the hell is this place?! Where are you taking us?!” then, they arrived, their jaws dropped and they couldn’t stop talking about it all night. It’s so unexpected. Plus, you come off looking like the coolest person among your friends for finding it (even if that isn’t actually true).

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It’s a warehouse-style space with white walls, wooden tables and French-inspired interiors. Light-up globes and fairy lights help create a warm atmosphere. A projector silently displays old films on one wall. Vintage furniture and nik-naks add even more quirk to this already-quirky eatery. It’s incredibly low-key, very relaxed and the epitome of a unique London restaurant.

I’m tempted to keep the secret of Merci Marie to myself and not share the love, but that’s bad form. So there – now you know. Merci Marie. My favourite restaurant in the whole of London.

 

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