John Gregory-Smith wandered to the wrong side of Wardour Street to find Morden and Lea
Morden and Lea is not the name of a dodgy solicitor that is sandwiched between two all you can eat Chinese restaurants on the wrong side of Wardour Street. It’s actually the name of the new and rather smart Mark Sargeant restaurant, named after Robert Morden and Philip Lea, who were responsible for mapping out the Soho area in the 17th century.
I went along during the opening week and was greeted by a rather merry Mark who was on fine form with a martini in one hand and terrific tales of a recent holiday to Turkey.
Spread over two floors, Morden and Lea has a bright breezy South Coast feel. Downstairs is a long row of little tables and an open kitchen, serving snacks, charcuterie and seasonal British plates. Upstairs is a stunning dining room, with a small bar and several massive booths that are perfect for a long lazy dinner. The interiors are cool and contemporary, with fabulous photographs and soft industrial touches.
We started off with a glass of fizz at the bar to take in the space, before tucking into a three course set priced menu, served by smart waiters in very fancy tartan jackets. Cumin roasted quail with smoked aubergine, polenta chips and spiced yogurt was perfectly cooked and beautifully seasoned. The crunchy golden chips and crispy skinned quail were delicious against the soft slick of aubergine puree. A rather massive crab and salmon ravioli, which was denser than I would have cared for, was served with charred lettuce leaves and a decent tomato sauce.
The mains are hard to choose from given that they have loin of Romney Marsh lamb, Rib of Dedham Vale beef, cod black rice and chorizo (which was fantastic) and pan-fried skate wing. I chose the skate. It came beautifully crisp and perfectly tender, huge chunks of milky flesh pulling away with each scrape of my fork. The fish was served with blackened cauliflower, caper and bacon polonaise. A sort of pan-fried mix, fine chopped and covered in crispy breadcrumbs. Bravo!
Dinner was super relaxed and the bright space so right for a long meal. We drank crisp rosé and then ordered a few desserts. Despite the up-sell, we didn’t go for the gypsy tart. Instead a moist pistachio cake with a ball of blackberry and lemon mess that had shards of meringue and pistachios sticking out of it as if they were magnetised; and a decadent praline mouse that was served in a glass with rich mocca coffee sherbet and little pieces of set dark chocolate at the bottom. A cracking start by what will no doubt be one of London’s hottest new comers.
Morden and Lea, 17 Wardour Street London W1D 6PJ