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Published:  23 July, 2008

Yannick Chaloyard, Restaurant manager and wine buyer, Morgan M, London. Interview: Josie Butchart

Morgan M 489 Liverpool Road London N7 8NS

Tel: 020 7609 3560

Morgan Meunier (previously head chef at the Admiralty restaurant in Somerset House) opened Morgan M restaurant in August 2003, serving seasonal, modern French food. Restaurant manager Yannick Chaloyard went to school with Meunier and met up with him again in London. Chaloyard studied catering in Savoie and has worked in Spain, the US and Burgundy - as matre d'htel and sommelier at Michelin-starred restaurant Chateau Ig. Prior to Morgan M he spent five years working for Balls Brothers, latterly as a wine bar manager. Suppliers: Balls Brother, Les Caves de Pyrene Ltd, The Historic Wine Company Ltd, Roberson Wine Merchants Ltd and Vinothentic

How did you get interested in wine? The first and most important factor is that I was born in Burgundy, so I was raised with wine and I have a passionately wine-loving family. I don't really consider myself a sommelier, because in a sense they are technicians of wine: they know the details of every different vintage and they are very interested in the technical aspects of winemaking. I am more interested in the story of the winemaker. Behind every great wine there is a great man or woman.

Why did you pick this location for the restaurant? We wanted to be in north London, but a bit out of the way. This is an old pub and we have lovely big windows so when you are sitting here you can see the tops of the trees in the park opposite. We've only got 15 tables, because we wanted to recreate the ambience of a small French restaurant. With our food, I think it is the right size, because I've seen so many people open a small restaurant then go mad and double the number of tables, then in a year they are gone. I don't think we could have a 40-table restaurant with what we are doing and the way we are working.

Do you have a second sitting? No, we don't; it's not Morgan and it's not me. I only did it once, and then only because we were fully booked and someone really wanted a table that evening, so I said he could have it until 9pm. He then spent 300 on food and wine for three people and at 9pm he wanted to order a round of Calvados at 30 a shot. I had to say that I was very sorry but I needed the table. I felt so dreadful that I decided I wouldn't do that again. You can come in to our restaurant at 7pm and stay until midnight.

What is the aim of your list? I like to discover new wines and encourage other people to try them too. I have a 1997 Mas Hauvette from Les Baux de Provence, and it is very interesting because it is a good price (44) and what you have in the bottle is amazing. People don't know the wine so I have to work a little bit. One thing is that if people are not satisfied I will always change it without question. When I find something interesting I want to share it with other people.

You have a couple of wines from Spain and from Italy but the rest of the list is French. Why is that? Rather than having ten Spanish wines at between 15 and 100 a bottle I'd rather just have a few from the top end. Being a French restaurant, I try to concentrate on French wines and if I offer wines that are not from France, I want them to be the best wines.

Do your customers often buy from the top end of your list? More and more, which is why I am trying to invest in older vintages. I've got a good fine wine supplier, Roberson, and it has a huge bin-end list. Most sommeliers won't buy bin ends because they want continuity in their lists, but I am very free. If there are a couple of bottles of a wine I like, I will encourage people to discover them. Then the customer gets good-quality wine at a more reasonable price. I am selling wine for the joy of the customers. What's the point in having a Chteau Margaux 2000 on the list when you know you are going to go to the customer and say: That wine is absolutely superb but it will be even better in 15 years'? I always try to have older vintages because I want people to drink the wine when it is most enjoyable.

How has the wine list evolved? Basically, it has expanded a lot because when you first open a new restaurant you don't really know how it is going to go and stock is expensive. I don't have a very large wine list but I think it is well balanced, and that's what we have been working on. Now we are getting to the festive season I am looking for older vintages and more robust wines, to match the food. Morgan is cooking with the seasons, so I try to do the same thing with the wine list.

Which region's wines do you enjoy most? I would say that if it is a Pinot Noir or Chardonnay it has to be Burgundy, because I was born with it. But I have also tried some absolutely wonderful Chardonnays from Chile, South Africa and New Zealand, and they are more affordable here. If I buy wine for myself at home I will usually avoid buying a French wine because I know the price in France, and some wines that are only average in France cost a fortune here. I usually buy wines at between 7 and 15, and if you buy wines at that price from Chile you are getting the top level of Chilean wine, but if you buy wine from France you are in the middle range. So why not drink top-range Chilean wine rather than mid-range French wine? When I go back to France I have plenty of opportunity to buy good French wines.

Why did you decide on a no-smoking policy? Morgan is a non-smoker, but that's not the main reason behind it. This is a small room, and if you have someone smoking here the whole room would enjoy the smoke and not the food, so I would rather have people enjoying the food than the smoke.