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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Morgan Arms (London): Gastropub not so gastro

(Visited 20/01/2012)

After the amazing Viajante, let's check if there is another little gem, in a different category, tucked away in the East End of London. We head to (near) Tredegar Square, the heart of the conservation area north of Mile End.

We are glad we haven't booked in the pub section as it is (for us) unbearably noisy. The restaurant section is quieter, cosy, simply but pleasantly furnished. But when people start coming in we note with angst that we dramatically increase the average age in the room.

The only problems with a mackerel pate' are that it doesn't taste of mackerel (faint undistinguished fish flavour), and that it is not a pate' (too soft). Ah, and the lemon overwhelms everything else.

The only problem with a cod and leek fishcake is that it tastes neither of cod nor of leek. Given that cod has a strong flavour, this is a remarkable feat, achieved we assume by being mean with the fish. Apart from total blandness, however, not bad and reasonably moist.

A grilled rib-eye of Scottish beef is better, though it reminds us that one thing is for a steak to be good and tender, another to be deep flavoured (like the one recently had at at Drovers Inn). This one was good but lacked depth. It had also been raped (flavour-wise) by a mega-portion of a heavy cheesy sauce thrown, unrequested, upon it (and removed by us).

And finally, a dish of seabass with chorizo was intensely greasy, the fish clearly farmed and not wild, but cooked well and fresh.

We decide to skip desserts because we are unable to anticipate anything positive.

The service was the best aspect of the evening, with really sweet guys in charge, professional and polite, in a venue which is part of a large group of unbranded pubs, and which clearly aims at achieving mediocre but just good enough standards to be identified as a gastropub instead than an ordinary pub. But for us, gastro it ain't. Again, the recent comparison with Drovers Inn in Angus puts this experience, while not unpleasant, in a poor light. We spent around £80 for two courses with a £20 bottle of quite drinkable Barbera and tap water and a tip, and we think this is the last money they will see from us. But in our student days we might have thought otherwise; we might have thought that this place had something going for it, and our mostly young fellow diners seem to think so, too. Maybe we are missing something just by virtue of our being boring old farts. So if you are young, go and check. All the others, we suggest you go elsewhere.


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