Morgan M has had a long wait on my to-visit list, thanks to its relatively hefty prices and far into Islington location (ie en route you go past lots of other nice places so have to bee very determined and not too hungry to keep going). An impromptu celebration finally gave the excuse for the trip earlier this week. Sadly we'd both forgotten our phones at home and the battery in the camera died that very day, so you will have to rely on their website for photos of the artfully arranged food and on my fickle memory for what we actually ate. (The hand-written bill is no help either, simply saying we had the set menu and detailing the drinks, though perhaps it is a better strategy than trustring all to a machine!)
The room itself is quite small and feels a bit like the living room of someone quite rich but not very proficient in interior decorating. Their are splashes of the modern in geometric colour-block paintings, and then swirls of the old-fashioned and kitch in the ornamental plates displayed on one of the walls.
We were quickly won over by the friendly and efficient service though, with the tap water appearing immediately from an elegant jug stored on the service station, and the aperitifs following soon after. It was all in such stark contrast to the experience at Beach Blanket Babylon a few days previously, and the comparison also made the prices seem more reasonable. The a la carte comes in at £36 for three courses, though a few of the options carry hefty supplements (as much as £7.50 for cheese instead of desert, though admittedly from a rather excellent looking trolley selection), and there is also a longer tasting menu.
Four well-cooked scallops (£5.50 supplement) are accompanied by a white chicory tarte tatin, nice but a little too acidic for my taste, a creamy sauce (onion soubise) and some tiny pickled onions. The ravioli come as three large-ish parcels, stuffed with an earthy mix of vegetables, a snail hiding in each one. It's a revelation that snails can taste of anything other than garlic butter, though a more generous sprinkling of the creatures would have been nice.
To follow, the filet of venison is beautifully pink and tender, meat at its best, and comes with a gamey dose of hare ravioli. The lamb (supplement £6.50) appears in three guises -- the shoulder is confit-ed, the rack is roasted, and I've forgotten the third (damn those forgotten phones).
The sommelier recommends a gorgeous bottle of French pinot noir for 25, not blinking at my request for something on the cheap side and educating me that it's not just new world countries that can do wonders with that notoriously temperamental grape.
Normally I don't even bother ordering desert, but here it's included and arguably turns out to be my highlight of the meal. The chocolate moelleux is dark, dense, bitter and rich all at once. The accompanying shot glass of mandarin juice is bizarre but provides a refreshing contrast. The passion fruit soufflé was also pretty good.
At the end of the meal, Morgan M himself appeared, smiley in pristine chef's whites, and asked us whether we'd enjoyed the meal, and what we'd liked the best.
So to sum up, I certainly would not go back for the decor - but I will be back at the next opportunity for more of the impeccable food and the equally impeccable service.
Morgan M Restaurant, 489 Liverpool Road, Islington, N7 8NS; Tel. 020 7609 3560; Tube: Highbury and Islington; www.morganm.com