Thursday, 8 April 2010

Lunch @ Monsieur M (Pan-Asian), London

One of the great pleasures of blogging is meeting up with other bloggers so I was delighted to have lunch with Londonelicious and An American in London. The venue was Shoreditch's Monsieur M, which Londonelicious chose as it reminded her of a similar place in Berlin, Monsieur Vuong. In fact, the whole concept was a bit of a rip-off homage with the trendy interior design and a similarly sparse menu offering just four choices of main, three choices of sides and a dessert. At lunchtime, you can combine these in a deal of a main, a side and a drink for £10.

I'm a big inverted snob and trendy places like these usually bring me out in hives. That said I'll give most places a try and it’s good to have one's prejudices challenged from time to time. As there were three of us, we decided to go for all three sides on offer, chicken toast, crispy wontons, and summer rolls. The deep fried snacks were OK in a trashy way although I preferred the summer rolls, which were perfectly adequate but nothing more.

Onto the mains and my fellow diners both went for a Thai beef green curry. To use the vernacular of the sports commentator, 'it didn’t pull up any trees' but it wasn't a total shocker. I remember they weren't overjoyed that their curry was mixed in with the rice.

Having adopted the moniker Mr Noodles, my main was a straight choice between two Vietnamese noodle dishes, pho gai (chicken pho soup noodles) or bun gai (stir fried chicken on rice vermicelli). I dismissed the pho as I had a feeling it'd be bad here, especially as it was served with garlic. Notwithstanding that it seems a weird addition to soup noodles, I don't think I've ever seen garlic in pho.

Mind you the bun gai was hardly a paragon of authentic Vietnamese cuisine. I knew something was amiss as they used the wrong noodle and God alone knows why they used thick spaghetti-like rice noodle. I wouldn’t mind but bun or rice vermicelli is hardly difficult to get your hands on. The noodles were also served warm rather than at room temperature, another faux pas.

Overall, this dish was very bland and not even the addition of extra nuoc cham could lift it. The overwhelming flavour was of peanut and I could also taste sesame oil, which is just plain wrong in bun dishes. On the plus side, the stir-fried chicken was tasty and tender but it lacked the charring that the grilled meats that come with this dish should have.

Service was OK although they were a bit slow in bringing glasses of tap water. That said; the management were happy to discuss Londonelicious’ query regarding the similarities to Monsieur Vuong and they also took my feedback on using the wrong kind of noodle with good grace.

Verdict: I doubt I’ll be returning here anytime soon as there are so many Vietnamese restaurants on the nearby Kingsland Rd serving authentic food of a higher quality.

Other Stuff: Monsieur M styles itself as an Indochinese restaurant but was Thailand ever considered part of Indochina?

Monsieur M. on Urbanspoon


  1. Thailand was most definitely not part of Indochina which was generally taken to mean the French colonised art of SE Asia I think - so only Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

    Your write up chimes with many others i've read and given their location, serving poor SE Asian food can't be a good idea. Many people have been pretty put off by their use of red pepper in Pho as well as garlic...

    I've yet to try it and nothing has yet indicated that I should bother.

  2. That thick noodle substitute reminds me of Giraffe's laksa that is served in green curry. The inclusion of Thai curry is an attempt to cater for the local taste - Londoners just love Thai cuisine for its lemongrass dishes.

  3. The fact that Monsieur M are having a free food day on April 14 surely says it all.

  4. Gworm - bad geography, bad use of ingredients. Is nothing sacred anymore? My tip is to walk on by.

    LChow - laksa in green curry is a major crime. That said, I think the inclusion of Thai curry is for familiarity rather than any deep love for lemongrass on the part of Londoners.

    GC - if it was free drinks then I'll be interested!

  5. I think you were too easy on Monsieur M - everything we tried ranged from "barely OK" to, at best, "mediocre". A waste of calories and 10 quid, but lovely to meet you in person. :)

  6. AinL - it was a pleasure to meet you too, next time we'll eat somewhere with a bit more quality. It wasn't great here but I don't think I gave them too easy a time. After all, I did write three paragraphs on the deficiencies of their noodles!

  7. When I first saw a review of Monsieur M I immediately thought of Monsieur Vuong - they have the same bowls. It looks pretty dire.

  8. Lizzie - the bowls were probably the best thing about this place!