Morden & Lea
Time Out says
A two-storey bar-restaurant in Chinatown.
Who’d want to eat within spitting distance of Leicester Square? With the exception of the better places in Chinatown, this overcrowded tourist hell offers nothing that a real Londoner would regard as a memorable restaurant. But that vacuum presented a real opportunity for someone who could put the right kind of menu in the right space at the right price.
Step forward restaurateur Mark Sergeant. He’s been a busy guy, running restaurants in Kent and one in King’s Cross, and recently signing on as a consulting chef at the Strand Dining Rooms. Now he’s opened this two-storey place in Chinatown.
The look is so thoroughly modern-woody-and-ventilation-ducty you would never guess the building formerly housed Chuen Cheng Ku, a longstanding dim sum palace. There’s a dining room upstairs with lovely skylights as well as a more informal space downstairs with a bar area. But nothing is really that formal here, especially the warm and friendly service.
We ate downstairs, from a French/Spanish/Italian menu of tartines (open-faced sandwiches), small plates and a few puddings. Two tartines – one topped with anchovy, onions and black olives (£4.50), the other with a grilled sardine on a tangy tomato sauce – were both successes. Stars among the small dishes were beautifully balanced smoked cod’s roe with bottarga and the most expensive, a crab roll (£8.50) which was a finger-licking joy. Only a misconceived carrot salad, presenting the uber-fash veg du jour in three different forms, fell into the fail-zone.
The upstairs menu is based on two or three prix fixe courses (£29 and £35 respectively) and features considerably more complicated modern cooking. British produce and producers are eagerly name-checked, and with reason: they buy well. Nearly half the wines cost less than £30 a bottle (yay!).
Even on an early showing, M&L has real promise. Plus-factors include low cost (for small plates at least), great cooking, friendly service and a diverse offering of both food and alcohol. It makes Leicester Square a dining destination – something we never thought we’d see. On your way there, you can look at those pizza-pasta-all-day-buffet chains and walk on by. Richard Ehrlich
THE BOTTOM LINE On-trend small plates, and small prices too.
17 Wardour St
|Transport:||Tube: Piccadilly Circus|
|Price:||Meal for two with drinks and service: around £70.|
|Opening hours:||Tuesday - Saturday Lunch 12-3pm, Dinner 17:30- 11pm|
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