Mon Plaisir, Covent Garden, London.

Restaurant: Mon Plaisir.
Location: Covent Garden, London.
Meal: Pre Fixe.
Price: Two courses, a glass of wine and coffee, £13.50.

Mon Plaisir claims to be the oldest French restaurant in London and that may well be true. I discovered it a while ago and have since recommended it to many people. On my first trip I was accompanied by nine others as it was my birthday and we got pate de foie gras, a melange of fish and Helen Mirren for our pre theatre price and you don’t get better value than that. (She was dining on the opposite table, we weren’t served fillets of her). So, when I heard an old friend from home was hitting London for the night to take her son to see Oliver it was a natural choice of venue for a quick bite to eat before I guided her round to Bow St. and the Theatre Royal.

As ever with its pre theatre customers the staff first check what time your show starts and makes sure they serve you in good time to get there which makes you feel nice and safe. There are only two choices for each course but really, at this price what more can be expected? Especially considering both options are always so inviting. This time there was the choice between a beautiful, chunky home-made pate and a butternut and pine nut soup. My friend’s son Tom went off menu and opted for escargot and a bowl of fries. An admirable choice for a six year old and I’m pleased to report he ate them all apart from the ones his mother and I tested for quality control purposes. My friend went for the soup which was silky, well seasoned and had good depth of flavour. Our waitress was generous with the bread basket which was offered on arrival and with both courses. My choice, the pate was exactly what one would expect from a good, home-made country pate and came with a home-made dab of red cabbage chutney, a choice of rustic and artisan breads and proper butter from the afore-mentioned basket.

Main course choices were fish cake of cod and roughly chopped potato coated with the lightest, flakiest breadcrumb coating you could imagine and a creamy slick of tarragon flecked sauce. It was rather refreshing in a fish cake to have relatively large chunks of components, pieces of identifiable cod and crushed rather than mashed potato. My friend ordered the Chicken Chasseur, a dish we’d all but forgotten about but if any restaurant could render this classic dish authentically it would be Mon Plaisir. We weren’t wrong. The chicken was left on the bone as it should be but was parted from it easily because its cooking had been so lovingly executed. The sauce was everything we expect from the French classics, softly sautéed vegetables, a little alcohol, a little herb and the whole in perfectly seasoned balance with each other and the meat or bird ensconced in it. The vegetables consisted of good – and here comes my time old moan – but not home made fries (grrrrr) and a charming little bowl of carrots and petit pois a la crème. The glass of house white we chose to go with it was more than acceptable. In fact it was so acceptable I ordered another glass.

My friend and I do what good friends everywhere do and ate half of each others meals so we’d tasted everything. We both agreed on the excellent credentials of Mon Plaisir, fries notwithstanding, both in quality of food and service and certainly on value for money, even without an appearance by Helen Mirren on this particular trip.

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