Dining For Deals: Morton's

Environment

Morton's is located at the north end of Berkeley Square. A striking blue canopy at the front door, bearing a single gold "M", makes it easy to find.

The front door leads into a rather boring hall, where coats are stored before diners are escorted up to the dining room on the first floor, which has full-length windows overlooking the square. There is a smaller dining area at the back, but this is less attractive, so ask for seats in the main dining room when you make your reservation.

The room is dominated by two huge hanging lights, and a copy of Magritte's striking painting Contemplation of the World hangs over the fireplace, and fuels endless speculation about what the artist had in mind. Huge wall mirrors and dried lavender displays complete the decor, giving the place the feel of a designer restaurant.

Clientele

At lunch there was a wide cross-section of people, with expense-account diners, couples, lunch- ing ladies and a table of 20 somethings. The place had a relaxed feel.

Food

The prix fixe lunch menu offers two choices for each course. Two courses cost pounds 19.50 and three pounds 23.50. Coffee, tea and tisanes are a further pounds 2.75 and an "optional" service charge of 15 per cent is added.

A la carte starters range from pounds 6.50 to pounds 14.50, and a wide choice of main courses from pounds 16.50 to pounds 22.50. The desserts cost pounds 7.50. I regard the set menu as decent value and the a la carte as on the expensive side for what was on offer.

Drink

There is a quality wine list, including the Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 1998 from New Zealand at pounds 40 a bottle. Mark-ups appear to be about 200 per cent on retail prices at the affordable end of the list. Wines by the glass are chosen equally carefully. A 1996 Beringer Merlot from California's Napa Valley offered good value a pounds 5 a glass.

People

The restaurant is under the same ownership as the Feathers Hotel in in Woodstock and Bishopstrow House in Wiltshire, which both have a reputation for good food. Garry Hollihead, who was previously cooking at MPW in Canary Wharf, is in charge of the kitchen, and Renaud Rollond, a first-class somelier is responsible for the choice of wines and their serving. Angus Agnew and Andre Vazquez are the co-managers.

Irritations

While the plates and glassware are attractive, my plate was chipped as was the sugar bowl - a minor point but one that caught the eye. I also object to the dish for pound coins at the coat collection point as I consider the 15 per cent service charge should be all-inclusive. However, few restaurants seem to agree with me on this

BARRIE PEARSON

n Barrie Pearson, is executive chairman of Livingstone Guarantee, the UK's oldest independent corporate finance house

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