Tel: +44 (0)20 7836 7243
Address: 21 Monmouth Street, London WC2
Cuisine Type: French
Covent Garden (PICCADILLY), Tottenham Court Road (CENTRAL, NORTHERN)
There is a little corner of London that will forever be France. Mon Plaisir opened its doors in 1942 and has been serving classic French food ever since, though there are now three rooms in addition to the original dining room, which remains essentially as it was on opening day. I like the upstairs room where there’s a little more space, but wherever you choose to sit, the atmosphere is professional but relaxed, with (French) waiting staff who know their business and a thoroughly listenable background of modern French singers.
The current chef is, surprisingly, English. However we were assured that he’s steeped in the essentials of French cuisine, and certainly the standard of the food has risen from good but a little heavy a few years ago to something approaching real inspiration. The classics are still there: a real onion soup (£5.95), Cassolette d’Escargots (£5.75), Coquilles Saint Jacques (£14.95), Coq au vin (£13.75). There’s also a ‘Menu Parisien’ available in the evenings – three courses and a glass of wine and coffee for £23.50 – and a pre-theatre menu offering particularly good value: two courses for £12.95, three for £15.95.
But to appreciate the talent in the kitchen it’s worth moving to the A La Carte menu. My starter – a soft boiled duck egg (perfectly cooked) with grilled baby leeks, crispy duck ham, parmesan and truffles (£7.50) – was nothing short of a triumph. A terrine of grilled quail and foie gras with caramelised pear, lamb’s lettuce and walnut oil (£9.00) was also superb. All the flavours were distinct, but blended perfectly, and additional touches such as parmesan wafers (the parmesan simply melted in a very thin layer in a hot pan) made these dishes very special.
Main courses (all around the £14-£15 mark) offer a good selection of fish in tempting guises – monkfish, daurade, swordfish, John Dory – the latter served with a red wine shellfish ragout and garlic cream. Meat also looked very tempting, and included a roast saddle of rabbit. However I was still hankering after the Hors d’Oeuvres, and decided to try the lasagne of langoustines flavoured with orange, served with asparagus and tomato confit (£12.50). It wasn’t quite as spectacular as the duck egg but it was excellent nonetheless. Side orders included a heavenly spinach in cream with lashings of nutmeg (£2) and good sauté potatoes (£2.20).
Puddings (£5.50) are mouth-watering and freshly produced, so if you want to try the Grand Marnier soufflé with orange sorbet, or the three chocolate fondant with coffee ice cream, you have to be prepared to wait a few minutes. Crème brulée with fresh red fruits was delicious and available straight away.
The wine list is interesting and arranged by region. Not surprisingly it’s mostly French, and with some wines rarely seen in England – we chose a Loire red, Saumur Champigny (£18.25) and were pleased to be offered the chance to drink it slightly chilled. There are also some tempting pudding wines on offer by the glass, half or full bottle.
The menu changes frequently at Mon Plaisir, though the French classics are always available, and it’s worth having a look at the website (www.monplaisir.co.uk) for current choices. This is not a cheap restaurant, even by London standards, but if you want a thoroughly civilised evening and some great food it’s a good bet. And if you want good French food – not that easy to find in London – then this should definitely be on your list.