After months of eager anticipation, Harborough folk finally got a chance last week to have a nose around the new stylish bar/restaurant at the top end of town.
The Mercado Lounge is located in Abbey Street at the former Edinburgh House offices of Golden Wonder and is part of Hazelton Commercial’s development which includes a 60-bed Travelodge, shops Phase Eight and East, and new tanning salon Bronzed Angel.
The Mail team were kindly invited along to opening night last Thursday – and we took full advantage of a two-hour free bar and gratis tapas laid on for guests.
The decor is classy and quirky. There’s lots of curios on the walls and comfortable furniture dotted about. A few remnants of the old Golden Wonder site have purposefully been left on show such as a stretch of pebbledashed wall and ducts. An old photo of GW staff adorning a wall above our table attracted several onlookers, presumably former workers of the crisp manufacturer.
Parent company Loungers Limited describe the lounge design concept as “individually tailored to provide a unique, homely, relaxed and slightly eccentric environment”.
It took me back to September 2010 when, as the Mail’s then news editor, I was given a tour of the Abbey Street site by developer Tom Hazelton. Back then it was a building site and it is impressive to see what that dusty space has been converted into.
One comment that arose frequently amongst the guests I spoke with was how surprisingly big the venue is (it’s 4,725sq ft to be exact). On opening night it was packed with drinkers and diners, giving a pleasant and vibrant atmosphere. But one wonders how it will feel on a nondescript Monday night in October.
The tapas was brought to the tables promptly by well-versed waiters and waitresses. Not being a tapas kind of guy, I can’t comment on the food but my colleagues who did partake of the free grub said it was tasty – two gave it an eight out of ten and another said it merited a seven. One of our journalist even lauded it as “the best tapas he has ever had”.
The drink and cocktail menus are plentiful. I opted for Spanish pilsener Estrella (a refreshing change at the bar pumps compared to your usual Kronenbourgs and Stellas) as well as a farmhouse-style bottle of cider (a tad pricey at £4.50 a go).
One note of criticism I would make is that the bar was understaffed. At about 9pm I must have been waiting for a good 20 minutes to get served as a few groups of people causing a log-jam at the bar with lengthy cocktail orders. Admittedly, a few drinkers compounded the problem as they were allowed to block the path to the bar by not moving away after being served - a pet peeve of mine - meaning that the queue ended up being five or six deep at one stage.
To give them the benefit of the doubt, I’m sure these were opening night snags which will be ironed out in due course.
And a note to the smokers out there – the courtyard area is a no-smoking zone. Some of my colleagues found, much to their chagrin, that they were not able to pop outside there to get a nicotine fix.
This policy has prompted quite a few mentions on Twitter and the @MercadoLounge addressed the issue on Monday, saying: “The designated smoking area will be outside the main entrance at the bottom of the steps in Abbey Street.” They explained this was due to its “licensing conditions”.
Overall, though, we were all suitably impressed and feel it is a welcome addition to the town, something new and fresh for Harborough’s social scene to rival Enigma and The Oat Hill as one of the centre’s classier night spots.
The venue was officially opened earlier in the day when some angelic children from a nearby day nursery were invited along to help bake some cookies. See the Mail’s videos from the day.
Review by Alex Blackwell
Follow Alex on Twitter, @BlackwellHarb.