Magdalen – Beautifully unpretentious fine food

So this is my second review in 2014 and for the second time, I’ll be raving about the place, making me worry whether I lost my “edge,” but I do believe I just happen to have a lucky food start to the year.

Recommended by a friend’s colleague, five of us Japanese finance girls in London ventured to the Magdalen last week for our girls night out, the location of London Bridge often chosen as a good compromise for the City vs Canary Wharf crowd that needs to be accommodated. Part of the modern day phenomenon, relying dangerously too much on Google maps, I wasted a few minutes walking up and down the corner of Tooley and Shand Street before activating my brain the tiniest bit and actually checking the address which indicated that Google maps was in fact lying to me, the restaurant being just one block down on Tooley Street itself.

Having booked for 18:30, it was a rather early dinner and despite it being Thursday evening, I was the first one in (first one from my table as well). The initial quietness was temporary though, as soon enough the place was buzzing with guests. The very tastefully decorated wooden interior had an elegant understatement about it, which was to be reflected in the food as well.

The seasonal menu (I LOVE seasonal menus!) was easily structured on a one page double print with today’s date. There was a selection of about eight starters and main courses each with starters ranging from £8 to £12 and mains around £18 (though mine was over that at £23.50). A challenge for a group of non-native speakers like us (despite decent English skills) was to understand what was on offer. Braised Dexter featherblade? (We wrongly deduced it must be some kind of bird) Roast Calves sweetbreads? (We were pretty sure it had nothing to do with bread) Gurnard and Kid? (We could hardly tell whether this was about some animal or not) After a few google searches and asking our friendly waiter however, we narrowed down our selection.

20140123_194447For the starters, we were split between the Devon crab salad and Italian ham and baked ricotta toast (3 to 2). My starter of Devon crab salad was nicely presented with the few pieces of blood orange giving a refreshing zest to the more than satisfying amount of crab meat. But I must say the Italian ham on the other side of the table looked more than delicious, again with plentiful of that salty ham, the flavour filling up the air, with the baked toast.

20140123_204336On the mains, we went all our ways and I chose the calves sweetbreads (after having researched what it is). Now I know sweetbread isn’t to everyone’s taste and although I’m a sweetbread lover and could go for almost any form, I believe these were very nicely prepared to even please the amateur or first timer out there. While still having that strong juiciness, the meat wasn’t all too chewy or fatty and was also very mild in taste to enjoy.

20140123_212150Nothing really jumped at me on the dessert menu but I still went for the chocolate tart. Although the tart was fully meeting my expectations, the fruit pieces in the Armagnac ice weren’t necessarily to my taste. Still, with my camomile tea, the tart with just the right amount of moisture went down well.

If I were to come up with any shortcomings…(And that would definitely qualify as nit-picking) It’s that we got four pieces of bread even though we were five!

My menu for the night:

Devon crab salad, blood orange and salsify £11.00

Roast calves sweetbreads, braised lettuce, white beans and chicken juices £23.50

Chocolate tart and prune & Armagnac ice cream £6.50

Our girls night out averaged £52 with three courses and a bottle of white wine. The Magdalen is a very classy restaurant of understatement with caring hosts where food definitely plays the central role. I’d recommend it for either a date (not necessarily that anniversary celebration but definitely more than your average weekly dinner out) or a small group, quiet enough to enjoy food as well as conversation.

 

Price: ££££

Food: *****

Service: *****

Decor: ****

 

Square Meal

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