Saturday 25 August 2007

Mon Plaisir

In May 2006, we arrived in London. First night, my husband took me for a walk around Soho and Covent Garden. I was horrified. There were people spilling onto footpaths from all the pubs, drunken women in tears sitting in the gutter surrounded by broken glass, police attending to men with blood pouring down their faces. It looked like a Hogarth painting, but was a normal spring Friday evening in the nation's capital.

To stop me from running shrieking back to the airport, my husband distracted me with food. He led me to a promising-looking French place, where we had a magnificent meal. I can't remember what we had, but I know we watched the people at the table next to us order the cheese for pudding, and I'd never seen anything like it. Visible from the moon, the waitress staggered under its weight and cut generous portions of the 5 or 6 cheeses the couple selected. Just what a cheeseboard should be!

It turned out that the restaurant was Mon Plaisir. We've been back several times since and have never been disappointed. It's the sort of food I have fantasised about when reading Elizabeth David's books since I was a child, but had never found before. Just wonderful.

So last night - partly because we've been too disorganised to plan anything for the bank holiday weekend - we went to see Spamalot and had dinner back at Mon Plaisir. To be honest, it wasn't the best meal we've had there, but it was still the best food you'll find in a long day's ride. I started with Ravioles de Royans au Jus de Moules et au Safran, which I was told was a cheese ravioli. I was expecting a portion of 2 or 3 big ravioli on a plate with a polite portion of sauce. I should have remembered that Mon Plaisir don't do things like that. I was served a hefty portion of delicious, tiny cheese ravioli, bathed in thick, slightly saffrony cream studded with fat mussels. Too delicious not to eat all of it, but way too much for someone who hopes to nail 3 courses. I had to borrow my husband's soup spoon to grab the last bit of sauce.

After that I didn't really need to eat anything else, but greed got me through a fair amount of the cote de boeuf. Such a lovely piece of meat! The bearnaise sauce was lacking a bit of punch - not enough shallot, not enough tarragon, but still a wonderful accompaniment to the meat. Fortunately we'd just ordered some green beans to go along with it. I couldn't have faced anything starchy.

With the best will in the world I couldn't have eaten pudding. I enjoyed watching the pretentious theatrefolk at the next table being upsold their puddings - the perky young waiter sold a bottle of pudding wine and 4 desserts even though they'd initially said they'd have 2 desserts and a glass of sticky. But I am made of sterner stuff and couldn't be moved. So I had a glass of mirabelle and called it a night.

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