19-21 Monmouth Street
London’s oldest French Restaurant sits inconspicuously on Monmouth Street - it’s only once you walk inside Mon Plaisir, that you realise what a gem this place is. The restaurant has cracked two things: good food and repeat custom. The latter is so well established that people return with requests for their favourite table on the tips of their tongues. Our table was slap bang opposite the cook’s lift (which is still used to transport piping hot dishes from the kitchen to the table), and we watched, slightly mesmerised as the waitresses came and went with customers’ orders.
The main reason for our visit was really in honour of trying out Colin, otherwise known as pollack. This white fish has recently been re-named by Sainsbury’s in an attempt to encourage shoppers to stop buying and eating so much cod, and opt instead for Colin (pronounced ‘Colan’, don’t you know). The French by the way, love their Colin and currently buy 70% of all British stock. With cod stocks dwindling, Colin’s similar flavour, texture and appearance make it a viable alternative and Mon Plaisir knows a thing or two about making it taste magnificent. So much so in fact, that Sainsbury’s has been working with the restaurant to create a batch of new recipes for the supermarket.
We tried (and quite simply loved) the carpaccio of Colin (£7.50). The fish came looking pale and delicately plump, cured in lemon juice, capers and dill, and topped with caviar. (If I ever figure out how to prepare this dish at home, I probably won’t leave the house again). It tasted brilliantly fresh - just like the sea, on an exceptionally good day. Next up was Dos de Colin Roti, which came beautifully cooked and served with a black olive tapenade. Buttery mouthfuls of Colin and tapendade conjured up those classic French flavours and made for a wonderfully savoury dish. Our steak entrecote was also formidable, as dishes tend to be at Mon Plaisir. A floating vanilla island, all mousse and lightness rounded off our meal, along with a dessert of baked filo pastry with banana, passion fruit and black pepper ice cream – a different kind of taste, but a very welcome one.
So, next time you’re considering a bite of cod, think twice and enquire about pollack or Colin instead. If you rustle up something half as decent as Mon Plaisir’s Colin-inspired dishes, you’ll never look back.
Mon Plaisir: 19-21 Monmouth Street, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9DD. Tel: 020 7836 7243.
Reviewer: Helenka Bednar
and shellfish sauce). The steak which I had requested as medium was veering towards that more French notion of medium: medium rare, but it was succulent, flavoursome and very good with its béarnaise sauce and slender pomme frites. It was also quite huge in size – perhaps not to someone who hasn’t eaten since the day before, but to the likes of my already gluttonous self – quite huge. The sea bass meanwhile, was a little more modest in size and equally as good in flavour with its creamy, savoury shellfish sauce proving a great partner to the sea bass. Shamefully, I had to leave some of the steak – not because it wasn’t good, but completely because there was barely an inch of space left inside my stomach. Worryingly, I still had dessert to tackle – not something I make a point of missing out on. Again we requested another pit-stop, this time a slightly longer period of 15 minutes, 10 minutes of which we sat there in near silence as I discovered I was unable to talk (largely for fear of flinching a stomach muscle). Meanwhile my good friend Lara, attempted some restorative deep breathing in between small bursts of laughter at my inability to speak.
It worked though, the no-speaking malarkey – and with a good 15 minutes of almost complete bodily rest, we were ready to take on Mon Plaisir’s dessert menu. Miraculously we didn’t take an age to decide what our last course would be and asked for the Contraste Chocopassionnément and the Oeuf en Neige à la Noix de Coco, happy in the knowledge that we could fit a little more in. The Contraste Chocopassionnément (a warm chocolate mousse with passionfruit sorbet) was deeply good and a quite divine way to kick the bucket if you’re considering death by chocolate, but the Oeuf en Neige à la Noix de Coco (coconut floating island) was the king of all desserts. As this soft coconut meringue, swaying on its bed of delicate custard, appeared in front of Lara, her jaw dropped open, only moving to mouth out the words “insanely awesome!” And was it? Well, yes it was – with a cloud-like consistency and a beautifully crafted custard beneath, it was quite simply: insanely awesome. We gingerly cracked the caramel swirl accessorising the top of the coconut island, and devoured both island and surroundings, leaving a huge cavernous space inside the bowl it had arrived in. There are plenty of things to worry about in life: will your ears get hairy when you grow old?, will your pension payout?, is it really time to throw out that pink latex swimsuit? (Yes). As we reached the end of our meal, we realised that there was no point worrying about whether we could fit anything else into our stomachs as we had a new philosophy on life: where there’s a coconut floating island, there’s a way.
Mon Plaisir: 21 Monmouth Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2H 9DD
Reviewer: Helenka Bednar