A very pleasant day today Up West, as they used to say on EastEnders. I'd bought mum tickets for Spamalot for Christmas and opted for a weekday matinee because, frankly, that's all they had available. The 3pm kick-off lent itself very nicely to lunch, though, a lunch which dad had kindly offered to pay for.
In the end we chose Mon Plaisir, the self styled oldest French restaurant in London. There's little information on exactly how old it is ("over half a century" is conveniently open-ended) but dad said it felt old when he used to go there back in the sixties so it certainly has some heritage.
And it certainly feels very French. Even if it wasn't festooned with an enormous tricolour - every inch a match for the Union Jack adorning the Covent Garden Hotel directly opposite - there would have been no mistaking the theme. Lots of French bric-a-brac, plenty of authentic accents, even an impressive coq fashioned out of cutlery... this is a corner of theatreland that is forever Gaul. Long may it continue.
A nicely balanced kir was just the ticket during a lengthy perusal of a very difficult menu: so many classics to choose from. It took a mighty effort of will not to opt for the trotter stuffed with foie gras and truffles, which, despite my ambivalence to the fungus in question, was practically screaming at me. It would surely have been too much, though, what with the theatre to come and everything. In the end dad and I went for the sensible option of half a dozen fine de claire oysters, which were as sweet and fresh and sea-y as you could hope for and better value than most places these days at £8.95 for six. The real star of among the starters, though, was mum's trio of mushroom dishes, a rare modern twist on such a traditional menu. This proved to be a shot glass of soup (which even had a smidgen of foam), a delicate looking crumble and a crostini heaped with wild 'shrooms. It's almost like the chef cares about vegetarians: not something one immediately associates with the French.
Having said that, I'm not sure how a veggie would fare with the main courses, which are back on pretty familiar bistro territory. Dad went for the entrecote bearnaise, which was clearly the reason he suggested Mon Plaisir in the first place. Perfectly cooked, a decent size and with a generous bowl of fries for us all to try. Mum had partridge, which again betrayed a certain creativity in the kitchen, the dissected bird arrayed symmetrically around the plate like something out of a text book. Surprisingly, the thigh meat was a little dry while the breast was juicy and succulent. Presumably they'd either been cooked separately, which seems a bit OTT for such a small bird in such a small place, or else something funny had been going on under the lamps just before service. Given the fierce temperature of some of the serving plates this seems the most likely explanation. A minor quibble, though: it looked a tasty ensemble with the blackberry jus and the cute little potato pancakes. I eventually opted for a wonderful shank of pork, slowly braised but without a hint of the dryness you can get from pig, which came with a St Emilion reduction, some tasty green lentils, savoy cabbage and a little potato. Very satisfying and more than enough justification for not having the trotter. Next time...
To follow we shared a slice of the tart of the day, an intense chocolate affair that might have defeated two people, let alone one. The bill, with a demi carafe of house white, a bottle of very acceptable Cote du Roussillon, a couple of coffees and service included came in at just about £50 a head, which I'd say was bloody good value for a meal as good as this.
Before long, there were other French people taunting us, firing cows over the ramparts and farting in our general direction. They're going to have to do better than that, though, to stop me going back to Mon Plaisir for more.
Mon Plaisir, 21 Monmouth Street, WC2H 9DD 020 7836 7243