Michelin star chef Mark Sergeant has just opened Morden and Lea on Wardour Street on the edge of Chinatown, in the heart of Soho. It’s the worlds worst kept secret that this restaurant is going to become a staple of the discerning London restaurant goer.
Writing about Morden and Lea is difficult, after all, who wants to read about an experience almost so perfect that you’ve got to pinch yourself to remember that it really happened to you. People always look for the criticism, but I just couldn’t find one.
In our summer attire myself and my friend walked into Morden and Lea after a couple of drinks at local establishments, and were seated downstairs near the open plan restaurant and bar area.
The restaurant is split into two, downstairs is for bits and upstairs is for lots. Both levels have their own wine and cocktail menus, but if you ask nicely then I’m sure they’ll make an exception and bring you a cocktail from the other level.
The interior is immaculate and satisfying, with each detail from the chairs to the hand soap creating a scene that you’re so very glad to be in.
We started with roasted pepper, olive and oregano, and beef horseradish and watercress, on sourdough toast. Both were simply divine, and showed the very best of what can be achieved with fine ingredients, and at £4 and £5 respectively they earned their place on the table.
We followed them with pork loin with lemon and sage, ox tongue with salsa verde, smoked aubergine purée with sourdough toast and a Moons Green charcuterie board. As well as all that we ordered the dish that was recommended on twitter before we went, recommended by the lady at the door, recommended by two waiters, and recommended by the manager…the crab sausage roll.
For a dish to be recommended by so many connected with a place, you know they believe in it, and when it’s over double the price of all but one other dish on the menu, then you know they believe in it.
They were right to.
Back in North East Lincolnshire, a man named Piggy John (not his real name) makes sausages. They’re the finest sausages that I’ve ever tasted, and when I can I get some frozen and brought down to me. They’ve got a texture to them, a proper meat texture, and they’ve not got the tiniest bit of fat or water or whatever gruel they shove in supermarket sausages nowadays inside their skin.
The crab sausage roll took me back to those sausages, with their texture and tenderness, and the sheer wholesome flavour. I did share the tale of Piggy John’s sausages with our waitress, and she seemed to really invest in the tale of a sausage from the distant land of North East Lincolnshire.
The pork loin was, like everything else really, exceptional and perfectly matched with the lemon and sage. The ox tongue was another delight, and the smoked aubergine was some of the finest I’ve had. The Moons Green board was an immaculate expression of meat goodness.
All throughout this rich taste bud adventure we were fed cocktails. Some rum, some whiskey, and some spirits that we couldn’t even pronounce. We were even given a cocktail with matching truffles freshly prepared by the chef. There seemed to be nothing that was impossible to the team at Morden and Lea, including the Gypsy Tart.
The Gypsy Tart, like the crab sausage roll, was recommended highly and once again they were right. This version of the classic school dinner pudding was so light we wondered if we’d have to hold it down on the plate, and it came with a dollop of clotted cream. We also had a dark chocolate and mocha sorbet, a dish most notable because it tasted of coffee. That holy grail of coffee fans, something other than coffee that tastes of actual coffee.
I loved Morden and Lea, and the whole ethos behind it. Their downstairs menu is incredibly affordable, between £3-£8.50 for their tartines and small dishes, and their drinks list was also extensive and affordable. The cocktails will add a few quid to the bill, but they’re absolutely worth it.
Being accessible in this part of town is generally reserved for the all you can eat Chinese buffets, but Morden and Lea have changed the Soho agenda with their downstairs menu. Their upstairs menu looks like it will be worth the bigger investment when I get round to it at three-courses for £35, or two for £29.
Morden & Lea
17 Wardour Street, Soho, London W1D 6PJ
Nearest Tube: Leicester Square
Tel. 020 3764 2277