Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Pub at Naples Mercato

The Pub, at Naples’ Mercato is poised to soon be at the epicenter of one of the busiest social spots in Lee and Collier County. The Pub alone gathers perhaps 800 people on some days in this off season- that says a lot! The Mercato may equal Naples 5th Ave South by spring of 2010, as the hottest spot in Collier for foot traffic and dining, with national chain stores Books-A-Million, Whole Foods, Sur la Table, AZN, Capital Grille and McCormick and Schmick now open. Mercato will really get going when the movie theaters open, and numerous empty spaces go from currently 25% occupied to full. The condos, still priced over market rates, are largely empty.

5th Avenue South has vacant spots, cancer-like, metastasizing here and there, as landlords further elevate rents, despite the tenant's decreasing revenue with a deepening recession. Soon, the “great sucking sound” will be the people leaving 5th Avenue, (and sadly leaving the mom and pop stores as well) to “shop, have dinner and a movie” at the Mercato. When the mom and pop restaurants are gone, and uniform national chains remain, the very folks who flock to chains will whine, “Why are there so few local restaurants for us to try?” Uh-huh. Check out; for 35 local restaurants, and there’s a couple hundred more good neighborhood spots to enjoy-check my blog. Off my soapbox.

With most of The Pub’s tasty food items priced from $8-12, and great brews on tap, from London Pride and Boddington’s, to Newkie Brown Ale, how can they not thrive?
Enter via the patio, relax at an iron table and chairs. The side wall has painted scenes of Old Ben and, for Bluetooth youth, the red box is an old public phone booth, a relic that even predates both cell phones. Inside, it’s a traditional pub, with an expansive central wonderful open oak bar, with authentic draught beer taps..

The servers, men and women alike, proudly wear different tartan kilts, and the men have attractive leather sporran. A Scot could feel right at home in this British Pub. A young, saucy and friendly bunch, they are well trained and know the menu as if they’d been there for months. Our server, Jake has been to England, as his wife is British.

The Pub’s is becoming THE place, for those young at heart, to socialize in Naples past 8 pm! The crowd is mixed over the day, and age stratified as well. Those in their 60’s to70’s come late afternoon, and leave by 6 pm, The 30-s to 50’s arrive, and stay till 10, then it’s primarily a 20’s to 30’s crowd who keep things hopping till closing.

The crowd appreciates the broad selection of beers, wines and spirits. Newcomers to British beers are pleased with the rich tastes, and veterans tell any in sight of the virtues of their favorite Ales, Stouts, IPA’s and lagers. Check out the informative Beverage Bible at each table and at the bar, for a quick education on the different Draught Beers from England, Scotland, Ireland and Belgium. I’m partial to Old Speckled Hen and Newcastle Brown Ale, favoring Guinness Stout for cooking stews-the recipes require frequent tasting! There’s a great assortment of Single Malt Scotches, most from $8-13; or try a Scotch Sampler’s choice of three one ounce shots for $16. Select from a dozen Bourbons, or have a sampler trio for $12. Red and white wines are available by glass, from $5.50 and up, Martini are enticing. Learn British slang from the Beverage Bible-it’s quite a good read.

The Pub is a “Gastro Pub”, the British term denoting a pub that serves a higher quality of traditional foods than usual “pub grub.”It serves some non traditional foods as well, such as Spicy Jamaican Shrimp ($13), Seared ahi satay (12), and a Cuban pulled pork sandwich (12).

Chef Jeremy Snyder takes a hands on approach, making sure all is properly hot and attractive before it goes out.

Sesrver Jake Flicker, Chef Jeremy Snyder
For starters, or appetizers, there’s the classic Scotch or Scottish Egg (9), a boiled egg wrapped in sausage and bread crumbs, served with spicy Pub mustard. I like variety and the British Dip Platter (16) is a generous portion for a few to share, a trio of wonderfully warm dips, with ample pita wedges for dipping. The Spinach and artichoke dip is rich and creamy good, mixed with melted mozzarella and parmesan cheese and Guiness Stout. The Goat cheese dip is sinfully triple creamy, tasting like a Boursin cheese, with admixed herbs, marinara and a topping of crunchy toasted almonds . The Crab dip is a good mix of real crab and crab cake type filler, topped with cheddar cheese and scallions. If you and your friends combine this with British brews, you’re off to a great start.

The Fish and Chips’ (14) good portion of tender fish is encased in a traditional batter. The chips (our “fries”) are long wide planks, which seem properly twice fried to give a light fluffy interior, and a crisp exterior. So where’s the “gastro pub” component here? Aha, there’s a tartar sauce, whose color gives away the slight lemony, slightly sweet creamy Hollandaise sauce base- an emulsion of butter, egg yolks and lemon juice I like it! On my second visit, my British friend pronounced the fish and chips “Authentic”. His personal taste is to fry it a bit more, till the batter’s crunchier and golden brown, rather than golden.

Shepherd's Pie (12) has ground beef and lamb with slivered carrots and green peas, bordelaise sauce, covered with chive whipped potatoes with a touch of cheese, and dusted with parmesan bread crumbs. This is a favorite British comfort food. Balsamic tossed greens are on the side.The English Pot Roast (12) is a filling portion of beef, peas and carrots, with thick cut fries, er chips.Young’s Double Chocolate Stout BBQ Burger (10) has cheddar, Guinness onions and a chocolate stout BBQ sauce. The Over easy burger (10) has a rasher of bacon, cheese, and an over easy egg.

Tipsy Laird (Lord) is a traditional Scottish dessert, especially served on Burns' Night. Yes, it’s a funny name for a luscious dessert. Traditional versions start light with pound cake; Chef Jeremy lightly fries his (nice!) and drizzles it with whisky sauce. Surround it with a band of rich creamy egg custard, richer than Bird’s Custard or Devon custard, and top it off with a good assortment of in season fruits-strawberries, blackberries and cherries with a luscious natural thick sweet and lightly tart thick raspberry based sauce, “tipsy” with a wee bit of whisky or sherry. Add a dollop of freshly whipped cream, and you’re in for a Scottish delight! Chef Snyder gives proper attention to every detail, each component adds to the dessert's synergy. The dessert would be welcome at any restaurant. Cook’s note: The Pub’s style is a "deconstructed" version of the trifle dessert.

The Whisky Bread Pudding (7) is also enough for 2 or 3 to share-a rich thick custard based pudding with sweet whisky sauce, raisins and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. A spoon proudly stands up in this creation.The Naples’ English Pub on Linwood, McCabe’s on 5th, and Fitzgerald’s Irish Pub in Bonita Springs are mild competition- being miles from each is a good buffer. The Pub is open every night for dinner, and lunch Thursday through Sunday.

The Pub, 9118 Strada Place, Phone 594-2748.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a fun place to check out!

Ivan Seligman said...

It's the only spot I go to just for its beers-the high energy and food is a bonus!


Anonymous said...

Just got back from Naples and The Pub is awesome. Went 3 times while I was in town! About 27 quality beers on tap!

Anonymous said...

Love the Pub... but honestly cannot stand half the staff. I have found managers to be classless, sloppy in appearance, and hard to take serious. I see them leave and have drinks at surrounding businesses.