Attention GR foodies... GR has a tasty new spot downtown called New Hotel Mertens!
Named after the hotel that opened in the building in 1914, New Hotel Mertens is a French Brasserie with a relaxing but elegant setting. The restaurant serves traditional French cuisine, French vintage beer & wine, as well as a large selection of Michigan beer & wine. Their express service features coffee, espresso, & pastries made locally by Field & Fire. They look forward to being open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch, & dinner.
I dined with them during their soft opening... and here's what you need to know about it!
Honoring the building's history, the first element that immediately popped out to me was the original flooring which is full of vintage character & charm. A popular installation in the early 1900s, the complex mosaic pattern flows throughout the entire restaurant beginning from the moment you enter the main door.
Restoring many features of the original hotel's interior, such as the beautiful tile floor, you also see many areas of exposed brick and raw plaster that has aged over time. The mix of old and new filled me with a warm feeling of nostalgia. I couldn't help but envision what the busy city center of Grand Rapids was once like as I sat in the very same space that had once welcomed many patrons & travelers years ago.
With so much history in the details surrounding the space it was a challenge focusing on the menu... BUT trust me, it was an amazing menu! Let's now dig into the food part of the evening! :)
The first course consisted of PEI mussels in a white wine sauce with shallots & herbs, and a side of Field & Fire bread. I also tried the braised pork belly served on top of macerated plumbs and wild endive. The bitter crunch of the endive paired with sweet notes of plum and the crisp & buttery pork belly melted together so well covering the palate with layers of amazing flavor. The mussels were perfectly steamed in a broth so delicious one would think picking up the bowl and guzzling down the broth was totally acceptable! I typically always order seafood over pork, but this pork gave the mussels a run for their money, even with the best broth I've ever tasted... I will surly be ordering both again, very very soon, and yes I will continue to keep my table manners in check :)
The main dishes included a French classic, coq au vin. A red-wine braised chicken with roasted mushrooms & young potatoes. And the steak frites. The flatiron steak was perfectly cooked to order and topped with their in house butter, served with house-cut frites, and an arugula-herb salad. Both dishes were melt in your mouth amazing, upholding similar layers of rich flavor that I enjoyed in the first course.
And last but not least, for dessert their chocolate torte and croquembouche for dessert. Yes that is a tower from dessert heaven made up of vanilla-bean cream puffs placed together with crispy caramel. Both rich in flavor without an over the top sweetness.... the perfect ending to a wonderful dinning experience at The New Hotel Mertens.
Next time you're out for a foodie adventure filled with local history and classic French cuisine, this IS your spot. Located at 35 Oaks (on the corner of Commerce Ave & Oaks Street) this location is perfect for pre or post dinner & cocktails when you're downtown for events at either the Van Andel Arena or 20 Monroe Live, both venues are within a 5 minute walk! Or if you are looking for a date night destination, a cozy dinner spot with friends, or just foodies like me who like to explore the GR food scene, New Hotel Mertens staff is welcoming for anyone who walks in. We promise you will get a unique and delicious experience like no other in GR.
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