Latest opening: Morchella

By Joe Lutrario

- Last updated on GMT

Morchella Mediterranean restaurant Clerkenwell chef Ben Marks

Related tags Morchella Perilla Ben Marks Matt Emmerson

Ben Marks and Matt Emmerson have launched a more casual counterpoint to their highly-rated Newington Green restaurant Perilla.

What:A large restaurant just off central London’s Exmouth Market in the former La Porchetta site.​ Taking its name from the genus of edible fungi that is more commonly known as morel on these shores, Morchella serves a menu of Mediterranean-inspired sharing dishes alongside a serious wine list. Produce is sourced from both the Mediterranean and from small scale British farmers and fishermen. 

Who:​ Morchella is Ben Marks and Matt Emmerson’s follow up to their much-loved Perilla restaurant in North East London, which has previously been listed on Restaurant's​ list of the top 100 places to eat in the UK.​ Aided by a number of high-profile backers including Phil Howard, the pair launched the Newington Green restaurant in 2016 offering an ambitious but notably good value menu of intelligently offbeat seasonal dishes. With its tiny kitchen and attractive, natural light-filled dining room Perilla has a neighbourhood feel but pulls people in from further afield (especially chefs, who often cite the restaurant as a favourite). The kitchen at Morchella - which given the lower price point one assumes is intended as a more casual counterpoint to Perilla - is run day-to-day by former Sky Garden and 28 Market Place chef Daniel Fletcher. 

The vibe:​ Morchella echoes the neighbourhood feel of Perilla but is more high-spec with its raw plaster, stripped original wooden panelling, mid-century furniture and slick cutlery draws built into each table. The high-ceilinged space - it was a former bank, and quite a grand one by the looks of it - is spacious with a 68-cover dining room, open kitchen, bar area, downstairs PDR and a 24-cover terrace facing out onto Exmouth Market.   


The food:​ London’s dining scene is not short of broadly Med-inspired sharing menus right now but Marks - whose CV includes Noma, Stockholm’s Operakällaren, Claridge’s and a long stint with Phil Howard at The Square - has penned something that feels fresh and distinctive. All handled and presented with minimal fuss, dishes include salt cod churros served on a pool of Romesco-like sauce; little rolls of vitello tonnato; hake enveloped in sobrasada; salt-baked poussin with house-made chilli sauce; and iced salad, a collection of sturdy leaves dressed with a simple dressing that turns out to be far more than the sum of its parts. Sweet options include a prune, almond and Armagnac galette to share; and black olive portokalopita (a Greek orange cake made with shredded phyllo pastry). 

To drink:​ The exclusively European wine list is largely arranged geographically and means business, showcasing some of the continent's most in-demand low-intervention producers. Prices start at £6 a glass for red and white (both served via keg) but there’s plenty on the 150-odd list for those wishing to splash out. The cocktail list is grown-up and tight, featuring rhubarb gin and tonic; a bicicletta made with Campari, white wine and soda served in a Pernod-rinsed glass; and a leftfield take on the Negroni involving calvados, triple sec, lemon and sage syrup. 

And another thing:​ Morchella and its older sibling Perilla are part of the #serviceincluded movement. Along with a handful of other London venues including Mangal II and the more recently launched Grasso, the group’s pricing is inclusive of a 12.5% service charge. “Service charge is misunderstood by customers and the TRONC system used to manage its distribution underpins a way of paying staff that we do not support and believe is outdated,” the restaurant's website reads. “For us, skilled staff should be guaranteed fair wages. Paying staff through TRONC in too many other restaurants means paying to a certain level and then using service to top up. For many staff it can be from the minimum wage. We think our industry is better than this.”
84-86 Rosebery Avenue EC1R 4QY

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