Posted on Wednesday, 1st July 2009
Morgan Meunier is the French chef behind his self-named French restaurant, Morgan M. Morgan first worked in the UK under Alex Bentley at Hampton Hill, during which time the restaurant gained a Michelin star. Thereafter he moved on to become the head chef of The Admiralty restaurant in Somerset House. Keen to make his own mark, he opened Morgan M in September 2003 at the current location, a slightly unkempt part of North London.
The décor is comfortable and homely in an old-fashioned kind of way. The walls are wood panelled and there are paintings dotted around the room. Morgan M is currently running a summer festival special until 26 July which includes a 6-course tasting menu for two and a bottle of wine (for example, a Le Lesc 2008 from Gascony) to share for £100. Although we came for the offer, we ended up choosing the matching wines (£29.50) to go with the tasting menu instead (£43 at lunch, £48 for dinner).
The degustation was oddly described as a ‘Spring Menu’, even though it’s now summer, but I liked it for the fact that, unlike a lot of tasting menus where everyone at the table must eat all the same dishes, we were given a chose of two options for the starter, meat and dessert courses. We elected to go with each of the alternative choices so that we could share, which suited me just fine as I love lots of variety.
First was a chilled cream of broad bean with horseradish foam (wine: Le Lesc Colombard, Ugni Blanc, 2008). It was fresh and pleasant, with the horseradish foam adding a sharp, but subtle kick to the soup. As it was served chilled, it made for a refreshing start to the meal.
A ballotine of Landes foie gras, petit salad and toasted brioche (wine: Coteaux du Layon, 2006, Domaine des Barres) was our first starter. The texture of the foie gras was creamy and rich. While it was delicious, it was not the strongest tasting foie gras. The salad, dressed in olive oil, vinegar and orange was lovely and light. But the true delight was the accompanying vanilla, orange and olive oil emulsion, and the apricot chutney covered with curry sorbet. Their flavours were excellent, and when combined with the foie gras, worked really well to give it both sweetness and acidity.
The second starter was a lightly seared yellow fin tuna with Provençale vegetables, tapenade, red pepper and basil sorbet (wine: Vericchio de Matelica, 2008, Colle Stefano). The combination of the tuna, the vegetables and the tapenade was well balanced, and the intensely concentrated pepper sorbet added spark to the dish with its delicate sweetness. The basil sorbet was also pleasant. The dish was served cold, perhaps a little colder than it should have been.
Seared John Dory, braised cuttlefish, barigoule vegetables and saffron and enbeurre sauce (wine: Chablis, 2007, Gerard Tremblay) was our fish course. The John Dory was flavoursome, fresh and extremely moist. The cuttlefish was also wonderfully tender, but I found the sauce to work less well. With the vinegary artichoke in the barigoule, the sauce became quite vinegary too.
A main of Farmed Challan duck, with roasted breast meat, farci of braised leg, Jerusalem artichoke soubise and red wine jus (wine: Ochoa Gran Reserva, 1998, Bodega Ochoa Navarra) provided some well composed flavours. The breast meat was perhaps more medium than medium rare, but was gamey and tasty. Unusually, the braised leg was unusually a little dry in parts and moist in others, but the rich wine jus added greatly to the dish, with the artichoke soubise turning out to be a sweet concentrated puree.
Ragout of French rabbit with mustard, roasted saddle with olives, steamed gnocci and courgette and wild garlic broth (wine: same as the duck) was delightful. The ragout, immersed in the garlic broth was creamy and rich, and the saddle was moist and tender. I thought both this dish and the duck were quite heavy choices for a summer menu, but this did not detract from the fact that they were excellent main courses. One could not fault the ambitious use of the ingredients and how well the dishes worked.
For pre-dessert, we were presented with a light vanilla rice pudding with orange tuile. It was very creamy and did not contain much rice, but it was pleasant nonetheless. The tuile was well made, but it was not as light and flaky as it could have been.
To desserts, and a dark chocolate moelleux, milk sorbet and Armagnac drink (wine: Banyuls Rimage, 2006, Clos de Paulilles) was decadent and rich, but the cake itself was a little dry. It had a molten chocolate centre and was thoroughly enjoyable, especially when you alternated mouthfuls between the moelleux and the Armagnac drink. With this dessert, you are given a choice of two chocolates, a 70% valrhona guanaja chocolate and a 45% cocoa Barry milk chocolate. I chose the former.
A raspberry soufflé with lemon verbena ice cream and red fruit coulis (wine: Moscato D’Asti 2008, Bera Canelli) was the least successful of all the dishes. Texturally the soufflé itself was well made, but the raspberry flavour and the fruit coulis was overpowering, rendering the dessert too tart. It was difficult to taste the lemon verbena in the ice cream. There was also a selection of petits fours but unfortunately I had no more room left at this point to try them.
Service was very accommodating and attentive throughout. I felt a little rushed at the beginning of the meal, when our starters were immediately presented to us as soon as we had finished the soup, but things seem to go at a more regulated pace thereafter. Breads are brought in, with a choice of baguettes, sourdough, raison and walnut and multi-grain. I found the latter to be particularly enjoyable with lots of flavour and a strong, crunchy crust. Wines were well matched.
Overall, the food was excellent. The cooking was strongly executed, although perhaps not as well finessed or as perfect as the big hitting high end restaurants. But with its abundant use of ingredients, it showcased an enterprising and clever approach to dish composition. The flavours were bold and strong, and generally well balanced, and above all, I felt really happy, well fed and satisfied at the end of the meal. The portions were also quite generous, and at these prices, I personally struggled to understand how the restaurant could make money. Good value for an altogether excellent meal.
This meal was paid for by JRPR.
Morgan M at:
489 Liverpool Road,
Islington London N7 8NS
Tel: +44 (0)20 7609 3560