Morgan M, 50 Long Lane, London EC1

Will City workers lap up the classic French cuisine at Morgan M's new Smithfields asset?

At a dinner shortly before Christmas, I was placed next to a fellow restaurant critic far more experienced than me. Shortly before dessert, I asked whether he felt there were any occupational hazards attached to this most privileged of occupations. The lady to his left instantly snapped at us: "The tendency to sound ungrateful." Indeed, what could be worse, than to eat at fine restaurants, be paid for it, and still come across as ungrateful? So it is with a heavy heart that I make this confession: there follows a report about Morgan M in which your correspondent answers very neatly to the lady's description.

It's a relative thing. The previous week, as long-suffering readers will know, I had been to Dabbous, an exceptionally good new opening in the centre of London, where there is a tasting menu for £50. At Morgan M, the same deal goes, but it can't compete. Therefore I am in the curious position of recommending this place but also saying that, for this price, there's markedly better elsewhere.

Morgan Meunier is a distinguished chef. For years his Islington redoubt served classic French cuisine with panache. He has now moved to a site opposite Smithfields market, where most of the passing trade will presumably come from City spillovers brandishing the company card.

There are two floors, ground and basement. We eat on the ground floor, where the décor is smart but stale, and shot through with a vanilla-and-pale-green hue. The chairs are comfortable and the cutlery is Robert Welch. There are five options beyond the tasting menu, but since prices vary from £21.50 for pheasant to £28.50 for lamb, it may be worthwhile going for the taster. There are two of those, in fact: both six courses, but the vegetarian one is £4 cheaper at £46.

Both start with cream of Mojette beans with lemon confit and pesto, which is excellent and very aromatic. One of the options to follow is a crayfish-and-lobster cannelloni with tarragon, Jerusalem-artichoke soubise (onion sauce) and a shellfish cappuccino. This last, foamy supplement coheres the whole plate, and the cannelloni is perfectly done. There is also a chunky, well-seasoned game terrine with foie gras, apple chutney and toast – all very seasonal and delicious.

Then there is a fillet of sea bass with carrot-and-ginger risotto, or, on the vegetarian side, an exquisite mushroom cannelloni with mushroom, garlic purée and broth. This is French cuisine at its halitosis-inducing finest, and the venison fillet with a spot of stuffed hare and quince purée that follows is very distinguished, too. The vegetarian option of beetroot with goat's cheese and pine-nut biscuit is unadventurous in comparison, but basically faultless.

Both menus then dive into a light vanilla rice pudding with orange tuile, a very thin and crisp cookie. The rice pudding is indeed light, but by this point we are on the verge of saturation, with dessert still to come. A serving of double carbs, however small, is unwarranted.

All the more so, as the desserts are superb. There is a passion-fruit soufflé and sorbet with a punchy crème anglaise, which feels about one course too late, because it is. Or there is a dark-chocolate moelleux (fondant, basically) with a milk sorbet. You can choose whether you have 45 per cent or 70 per cent chocolate, an ideal touch to lift the spirits at the end of a long meal. The moelleux is beautifully cooked; soft, inviting and not too heavy.

You can get wines with each course for £30, or £27.50 excluding dessert wine. The service, which is Gallic to the bone, is charming enough; but our waiters have suffered from not having enough to do, because even tonight, a Friday, the place is curiously empty.

Why this should be I cannot say. Morgan M has the hallmarks of a potentially great restaurant. The chef is a rare talent, the menu is mostly well-crafted and affordable to City types, and the location should guarantee regular, well-heeled visitors. The décor is a little forbidding, and maybe it will take a bold, lunchtime menu, or a radical discount on the tasting menus, to start drawing in the punters and generate the sort of buzz that a new Morgan M deserves.

Until that alchemy is magicked up, this place will be the preserve of the ungrateful. Happily, it needn't be that way for long.

7/10

Scores: 1-3 stay home and cook, 4 needs help, 5 does the job, 6 flashes of promise, 7 good, 8 special, can't wait to go back, 9-10 as good as it gets

Morgan M 50 Long Lane, London EC1, tel: 020 7609 3560 Lunch and dinner, Mon-Fri; dinner, Sat. About £350 for four, including wine

Gallic gods

Galvin La Chapelle

35 Spital Square, London E1, tel: 020 7299 0400

The Galvins' spectacular Spitalfields yearling is a beautifully sympathetic conversion of a high-vaulted Victorian school hall offering impeccable, inventive brasserie fare

Les Trois Garçons

1 Club Row, London E1, tel: 020 7613 1924

Don't be put off by the stuffed animals – they form part of the magical setting at this quirky East End pub conversion; the Gallic cuisine plays second fiddle, but it's better than you might expect

Boundary

2-4 Boundary Street, London E2, tel: 020 7729 1051

Sir Terence Conran's cool Shoreditch basement offers faultless brasserie-style fare (although it's not cheap)

Reviews extracted from 'Harden's London and UK Restaurant Guides 2012' www.hardens.com

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
Nadine Gordimer died peacefully at home yesterday
people
Arts and Entertainment
Neil Young performs on stage at Hyde Park
musicAnd his Hyde Park set has rhyme and reason, writes Nick Hasted
News
Women have been desperate to possess dimples like Cheryl Cole's
people Cole has secretly married French boyfriend Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini after just three months.
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Extras
indybestThe tastiest creations for children’s parties this summer
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Paolo Nutini performs at T in the Park
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Day In a Page

    Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

    Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

    Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
    Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

    The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

    Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
    Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

    Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

    Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
    Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

    Meet Japan's AKB48

    Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
    In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

    Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

    The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor