The Merchant House including Need Street Food

Tuesday, 10 April 2018
It may have only been open for two months but The Merchant House has already established itself as a worthy new addition to the Southsea craft beer scene.

A fully independent free house, I was impressed with the beer selection when I first visited during the opening week but now that there's food on offer I figured it was an ideal time to pop along, sample a dish or two and then put my thoughts into a blog post.

The food in question is provided by Need Street Food who have taken up residency in the Merchant House kitchen. Having already built a solid reputation as Feed Hot Dog Co. they have now branched out and provide a full street food menu with the added bonus that for every meal they sell they fund life saving food for children across the globe.

For those that haven't yet found their way to the Merchant House, it is on Highland Road in what used to be the Ice Bar, although you'd struggle to recognise it thanks to the amazing refurbishment. It's now a lovely blend of wood and bare brickwork which whilst far from chintzy, still manages to be very welcoming and cosy especially when busy. There's also a sizeable downstairs area which provides more tables and seating.

When I visited (along with my good lady, Vicky) it was around 4.30pm on a Monday afternoon and there were only a handful of other people in, so we were able to purloin a table near the front with a view of the comings and going of a weekday Southsea.

With the kitchen not opening until 5pm I did what any sensible person would and picked myself a beer to whet my appetite, plumping for a pint of Buxton Brewery's Myrcia. This Oatmeal IPA is a stunning beer to look at, especially when delivered by keg, and at only 4% ABV but with a lovely balanced flavour it's a great session ale.

The Need Street Food menu offers a great selection and narrowing my choice was difficult. I was tempted by the Merchant Burger (when am I ever not tempted by a burger?) as well as the Hanoi Hangover Fries (which seem to have already created their own following on social media). But in the end I went for the Benny Burger (crispy chicken thigh, shredded lettuce, maple bacon, dirty cheese, garlic truffle mayo; £7.00) and Burnt End Fries (£7.00), with a schooner of Wild Weather's Pirate Captain Jester IPA to wash it all down. Vicky went for the combo option of Merchant Burger with Rosemary Fries for £9.50.

When the food arrived the first thing that struck me was the portion size, especially the Burnt End Fries. Some people may baulk at paying £7.00 for a side to go with a burger but having seen the quantity these are clearly designed for either sharing as a side or enjoying as a meal on their own.

Of course any discussion around value for money is a little pointless if the meal isn't worth eating, but with Need Street Food I can happily report that this definitely isn't the case. The chicken thigh in my burger was juicy but with a lovely crisp coating and the Burnt End Fries were a delight, especially the bourbon barbecue sauce that they were topped in. I did sneak a little taste of Vicky's burger and that was delicious although I'd have to sample a whole one myself before deciding where to place it in my hard fought list of favourite Southsea burgers.... watch this space!

So my overall impression of the Merchant House? Well as a craft beer lover it ticks pretty much all of the boxes on my wish list, with a varied and regularly changing beer list (keg, cask, bottle and can), a quality selection of spirits, a relaxed atmosphere with plenty of seating and now a kitchen pumping out tasty food. In a town like Southsea that has really embraced the modern craft beer scene, I can't see the Merchant House, including Need Street Food, being anything but a huge success.

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