Wine glasses gleam, cutlery sparkles, and the chocolatey walls and leather banquettes cosset and charm. Service is professional, the menu short and seasonal and seldom is a polished dessert fork put wrong. Magdalen is low-key enough to feel like a well-kept secret, but it’s also a favourite with clued-up City diners who know their gribiche from their gravlax.
There’s something old-fashioned about it, but the menu is adventurous too; few places would venture to list both kid (saddle and heart) and calves’ brains on the same menu. The latter – cloud-light, fried just-so and served with a punchy gribiche sauce – featured on the excellent-value set lunch menu. Ingredients shine; a starter of parma ham (from the Ham & Cheese Co at nearby Spa Terminus) was sliced transparently thin and served with a dollop of indulgent ricotta. Firm, perfect morels at the height of their short season came with sourdough toast, wild garlic and a poached duck’s egg.
For afters, there are cheeses from Neal’s Yard and grown-up desserts such as marmalade and whisky ice-cream. France is the focus of the well-chosen, mostly European wine list. A few tasting notes wouldn’t go amiss, nor would more choice by the glass, but otherwise it’s hard to find fault.