**THIS RESTAURANT HAS CLOSED DOWN**
Since starting my training at Cordon Bleu I am beginning to gain some understanding of the skill, technique and artistry on discreet display in our top French restaurants. Morgan M is the first French restaurant I have visited since I started the Grand Diplome, and I looked at it with newly informed eyes.
Morgan Meunier has an impressive CV, which included 7 years training in a variety of 3 Michelin-starred restaurants in France. He won his first Michelin star in the UK in 1999, at Monsieur Max in Twickenham, and later worked at The Admiralty in the Strand.
Having run a successful restaurant (also called Morgan M, an old favourite of mine) in Islington since 2003, Morgan Meunier opened his new restaurant on Long Lane near the Barbican and opposite Smithfield's Meat Market in November 2011. The new two storey restaurant offers his affordable haute cuisine but with dishes that, while meticulously crafted, are modern and simple.
The ground floor is an accessible and informal bistro, offering an haute cuisine small plates menu. The downstairs menu is more relaxed, with a selection of smaller versions of the classic dishes served upstairs, including the raviolo of snails in Chablis, garlic froth and red wine jus and Ballotine of Foie Gras with fig caviar.
I was impressed to see that unlike most restaurants which include vegetarian dishes almost as an afterthought, Morgan M has an entire 6 -course tasting menu specifically for vegetarians, 'From the Garden' @£46. On the occasion of our visit, Dr G and I went for the 6-course tasting menu: ‘The Winter Menu’ (£50 per person), with matching wines by the glass @£30 per person.
For most courses, there were two options, and therefore between the two of us, we were able to cover the whole Winter Menu.
We started with Cream of Mojette Beans, with lemon confit and pesto, served with
Le Lesc Colombard 2010, Ugni Blanc, Vin du Gers - this was a lovely, delicate starter, and set us up nicely for the dishes to follow.
Game Terrine with Foie Gras followed, served with a French bean salad, apple chutney and toasted Poilane bread, partnered with an Oloroso sherry (Don Jose Reserves Especiales). This was a magnificent terrine, studded with a fillet of rare venison.
In my opinion, the best dish of the night was the Crayfish and Lobster Cannelloni, with tarragon, Jerusalem artichoke soubise and a shellfish capuccino. It was served with a glass of Chateau Clement-Termes Gaillac Sec, 2010, from Southwest France. If by the end of my year at Cordon Bleu, I can create such a dish, I will be a happy man. The pasta was light, the filling delectable and perfectly seasoned, and the shellfish foam was stunning. An absolute winner!
Next, we had the Fillet of Wild Sea Bass, served with Torroxal Albarino 2010, Rias Baixas. Perfectly pan-fried, the sea bass was served on a bed of carrot and ginger risotto, with a lemon and saffron broth. This was an unusual combination of flavours, but delightful nonetheless. It was served with one of my favourite white wines, a lovely Albarino from Rias Baixas.
For the main course, we had Pot Roasted Fillet of Iken Valley Venison, with Farci of hare, quince puree and sauce Grand Veneur. The venison was splendid, and the sauce Grand Veneur was a revelation. A classic sauce for large game (it translates as 'huntsman's sauce'), it is based on a sauce poivrade, in which some game trimmings and strained marinade is added to the bouillon, and then finished with blood and redcurrant jelly. Very seasonal, this was a warming but sophisticated winter dish, served with a pleasingly stalky Bourgueil Peu Muleau 1996, Domain de la Chevalerie, from the central Loire region.
The other main course was Oven-roasted Suffolk Pheasant, the leg braised with raisins, glazed pear, served with liver croutons and bread sauce. Beautifully presented, I really enjoyed the gamey flavours of the bird, with the sweetness of the poached pear and contrasting savoury jus. A great combination.
As a palate cleanser, we were served a perfect Light Vanilla Rice Pudding with orange tuile. Tuiles are a serious technical challenge (as I know from my patisserie classes!), and these were perfectly executed, filled with an exquisitely light rice pudding.
For dessert, we had the Passion Fruit Soufflé and Sorbet with Crème Anglaise, served with Moscata d'Asti, 2010, Bera Canelli, and Dark Chocolate Moelleux and Milk Sorbet, served with a glass of Maury, 2007, Domain Mas Amiel. Excellent dishes to round off a memorable meal.
Cost: Winter Menu priced at £50 per person (6 courses) plus 6 matching wines at £30 per person.
Likes: Outstanding French cooking, good value for money for tasting menus and pre/post theatre options at £21.50 and £25.50 for 2 or 3 courses respectively. Well thought out matching wine flights.
Verdict: At £50 per person for this menu, I struggle to think of many restaurants in London that can offer such great quality and cooking skill at so reasonable a price. Highly recommended.