Mon Plaisir (2008)
Everyone these days pretty much knows the hot places to see and be seen; those places where the glitterati and literati are perfectly at ease in their preferred environment and can safely be found if ever you needed to find one. So it’s easy to forget about those places that might be termed ’stalwarts’ or ’timeless’ or even ’fail-safes.’ But sometimes it’s nice to take a moment and peer in the windows - check out the people who are quietly eating reasonably-priced and well-cooked food, drinking a modicum of reasonable wine and then heading home at a reasonable hour. How very, well, reasonable, you might think. And how dull. But don’t be fooled. They have just had a very nice evening indeed and the bonus is, they know that every time they go back, they will have just as good a time.
Such a place might be Mon Plaisir in Covent Garden. It’s not huge, rather slightly labyrinthine and has quietly been doing its very, naturally, French thing since the 1940s. Since then it has passed on to Valerie Lhermitte and her family and they have kept the torches burning. It is, as you may have guessed, so French it even has the national flag outside - you can’t miss it, in short.
The menu is not overly long but what is on offer reads like a roll-call of the great and the good of French bistro classics - it makes for soothing reading. Although old starter favourites like French onion, snails with garlic and foie gras with chutney crop up, they also offer a terrine of tomato confit with basil and crisply fried pigs trotter fritters, the meat boned out and rolled with langoustines and a little foie gras for richness. The aforementioned foie gras is silk smooth and the accompanying apricot chutney just sharp enough - although do remember to ask for bread as it doesn’t come with it, although some brioche slices would be good. Starters are around the £7 mark, rising naturally with the inclusion of foie gras.
The main courses (around £15) are equally untroubling and yet don’t miss out on hints that the kitchen might have an ace or two up its sleeve. The beef fillet comes with a mushroom bread and butter pudding - a nice lateral piece of culinary cleverness. The duck with blackcurrants comes with its natural autumnal foil of pumpkin puree - a seasonally perfect match. The Dover sole is a classic, but the roast cod with Parmesan veloute and basil gnocchi takes it all in the quite a different direction. The message here is - if you need the comfort of a coq au vin (darkly vinous in its own little casserole) or a great steak frites it’s there, but if you want something a little more out of the ordinary, we’re up to it.
Desserts are of course tarte tatin, clafoutis, meringue glace with raspberries (never let the seasons stand in the way of a good pudding) and creme brulee and the like. They’re happy to give you a break if you’ve overdone the gratin dauphinois. The wine list is actually rather excellent - plenty of regional choices as well as wines by the glass and starts at £13 rising up to about £60. Mon Plaisir is quiet, unassuming, serving good food well cooked with very little fuss and fanfare. In fact it’s all too easy to say Mon Plaisir is our pleasure too.
19-21 Monmouth Street
Tel: 0871 7036532
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