When you live in London, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to great restaurants and cuisine variety, so making a reservation for a special occasion in general is a ‘no-brainer’-you just need to know your mind or the food preferences of your loved ones.
I tend to make dinner reservations in advance, especially when it comes to special occasions, but sometimes events occur over which you have no control. Recently I was in exactly that situation, when a celebratory dinner had to be cancelled because our babysitter was in a car accident.
To be fair, we were in a very lucky situation that she was ok, albeit shaken and very bruised. Our lovely nanny actually tried to insist that she was still coming, as she didn’t want to let us down-do you know many babysitters who actually are THAT considerate? I saved my prayers for her safety and speedy recovery, imagining that she must be very shaken and scared and thanked her profusely, insisting that she gets a proper medical check-up after the visit to the police station and goes straight home after that to get a good night sleep.
We ended up having dinner at home, peacefully and uneventfully, but as luck would have it, a friend of ours, suggested that we go and have dinner atMarlon Abela’s club Morton’s that is located in Grade II listed Georgian building in Berkeley Square later that same week-thank you Alex! As the club is experiencing some great & very exciting changes, we gladly accepted the invitation…..
The last time we were in Morton’s was last year, when a friend of ours came to town and we wanted to take her to a peaceful dinner, as her work schedule was hectic during her fleeting visit. We had a nice dinner at the club, the staff was nice and the food wasn’t bad either, but something was lacking a bit, I couldn’t even explain to myself what it was on that occasion-it was nice but sort of lacked finesse a little bit.
Our table was booked for eight, so when we arrived at the Club’s reception, we were offered a choice of either going straight to our table upstairs or start the evening with a drink at the bar first-be honest, would you refuse yourself that pleasure on a Friday night, when the air outside was cool and the light streaming through the glass panels felt more like autumn than summer?
The bar area on the ground floor is quite dark and muted in its colour palette, yet it feels like a great mix of comfortably sexy and laid back, with the staff standing to attention even before your turn your head, the napkins and snacks appearing on the table as if by magic and the bar menu, giving you great, inventive choices that are tempting and curious at the same time.
We have ordered a cocktail each-my husband went for a Bellini( ok, the one in Venice’s Harry’s Bar fared better but hey, it’s an institution that is renowned and Morton’s wasn’t bad either !) and I tried a great cocktail that was so refreshing-basil was one of the ingredients, that it made me feel delighted even before we had our dinner.
The crowd at the bar was mixed-a group of girlfriends, some younger excitable things and some men discussing business-unlike a few clubs that I have been to lately, the atmosphere wasn’t stuffy or pretentious, more like everyone seemed to get on with their evening and the energy flowed nicely and freely.
With cocktails finished, we climbed the high and winding staircase upstairs, only to be met by one of my favourite Maitre D’ in town, Jean-Marie, who I have met several years ago, when he worked at Marlon Abela’s Greenhouse restaurant in Mayfair. He then moved to Bistro Cassis that has been gaining quite a following since it opened-the food there is sublime, cooked by the Chef who used to work at Hotel Lameloise in Chagny, one of my absolute favourite restaurant’s in France. Now Jean-Marie is working at Morton’s restaurant and under his expert eagle eye and meticulous attention to service, the team at the restaurant is run with charming precision and grace that you don’t often see in restaurants or clubs in London.
The restaurant itself, with its large windows overlooking the Berkeley square, beautiful cornices, carefully laid our tables that are nicely spaced (so you can have a romantic rendezvous, a business dinner or a catch-up dinner with girlfriends without being overheard or being obtrusive to other diners ) and stunning art work, including my favourite George Condo, makes for a truly magnificent combination-whichever way you look-your table, beautifully laid out with Murano glassware, silver ware and crisp napkins, the staff’s uniform that actually makes men look smart and women stylish with a slight sexy edge-when I go to have dinner I actually want the staff to look esthetically pleasing and manly/feminine and not wear baggy or too tight fitting clothes-all the pieces just come together. Add to that the staff being not only knowledgeable but delightfully, quaintly charming and attentive, the wonderful Swedish sommelier who is very knowledgeable but is equally happy for you to take the lead and Jean-Marie, is his impeccably cut suit and with formal yet very attentive manner, and I dare you not to feel smitten. And then you open the menu……
You have a wide, but well-balanced variety of starters followed by main course, for which you can have fish, meat, game or pasta/risotto and most of the dishes read like poetry, making you even hungrier in the process but mercifully we had a selection of delicious amuse bouche to start with-none of which were left on the granite slate when our starters arrived by the way .)
My husband chose to have Norfolk roast pork belly with black figs & almonds, which was flavoursome and cooked to perfection, while I followed Jean-Marie’s advice and had scallops with edamame and pea puree that was so nicely put together, that I savoured every bite-it had a nice bite to it, especially as you bit into the bean and then the flavours exploded sensationally together.
For the main course I went with roast Landes Duck with polenta, peach, cauliflower & almond puree-to be honest, I don’t like cauliflower at all, but the combination that the chef chose and the way that he cooked the duck, tender, with a bit of blood in the middle, made the whole dish just perfect-you know when you savour every bite as if it’s your last, because it just tastes so good?!…My husband chose to have Morton’s steak tartar with French fries-he is really fussy about his steak tartar and in the past he has been known to voice his discord to staff in other establishments, but on this occasion, his steak tartar was hand-made to perfection, with a perfect balance of meat, spices, capers, onions and other ingredients, so when the plate was cleared, it looked as good as new.
When it came to dessert, mine was a tiny bit disappointing, but my husband’s Crepe Suzettewas a roaring success-it was cooked in front of us, with plenty of Grand Marnier and orange zest and my husband looked almost like a gleeful child who had his wish come true on Christmas day. The last time my husband was that pleased with this great French dessert was many years ago, in Frederick Forsyth’s favourite French restaurant in Jersey, so I enjoyed watching my husband polish his plate, while I devoured the trio of little dessert treats that arrived with our coffee and as the meal came to an end, we were almost too sad to leave.
That evening at Morton’s turned out to be one of those perfect evenings when everything is just so right, that your relax in that moment and hope it lasts just a little bit longer. The staff dances a perfectly orchestrated tango around you, the food and the wine complement each other and you just feel very happy to be where you are at that time. As we left the building we both looked at each other and agreed that we just had the absolutely perfect dinner in the most wonderful setting where not one thing fell short of being just perfect.
p.s forgive me for the lack of pictures on this occasion, but I felt too shy to get my camera out and spoil the magic of the moment.