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

Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
News
news
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
tvChristmas special reviewed
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Latest stories from i100
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

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £30,000 Uncapped

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Day In a Page

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all