New? The second Cafe Murano, the Covent Garden restaurant opened in June 2015 following the popularity of Angela Hartnett’s Cafe Murano St James’s, although it’s still worlds apart from the surrounding pre-theatre-esque restaurants you’d find permanent features on coupon.com and the like.
Where? 36 Tavistock Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 7PB www.cafemurano.co.uk
On the menu: Cafe Murano showcases the best of Angela Hartnett’s Italian approach to cooking. Known for her passion for seasonal ingredients and ‘simple yet sophisticated’ approach, the menu changes regularly and is split into cichetti, antipasti, primi, secondi, contorni and dolce. A pre-theatre menu respectfully nods at the restaurant’s location, although it was the ‘Pranzo della Domenica’ Sunday lunch menu we were there to enjoy.
First Impressions: We were ushered through the restaurant and upstairs to a booth right next to a central counter where waiters were swiftly slicing freshly baked focaccia and restocking the fridge with branded Cafe Murano bottles of tap water. Embossed menus printed on mint coloured paper and printed Cafe Murano napkin holders wrapped around thick linen napkins were all noted as thoughtful little touches, and subtle acknowledgements from the staff made us feel welcomed.
The Look: Staff were dressed in jeans and dark brown aprons. The subconscious power of staff uniforms is often overlooked – their image sets the tone for the dining experience almost as much as the interior design does. Just as well it’s good then; Russell Sage Studios worked the same magic as they did with Grain Store and Social Eating House and the result? Plush leather banquettes, marble surfaces and central counters used to display fresh produce and a huge vase of flowers almost making you think you’re in someone’s kitchen. Downstairs, the colour scheme was all moody-oxblood-and-olive whilst upstairs the glass roof gave the room an airy feel, with teal and tobacco furniture.
What We Ate: If you’re thinking ‘Sunday lunch’ let me stop you before you daydream about Yorkshire puddings and gravy – this is Angela Hartnett’s Italian Sunday lunch. Mini arancini kept us going whilst we looked over the menu, with our waiter making insightful suggestions. Flaked salt cod on slightly unappealingly named wet polenta was a favourite, as was the burratina with chopped baby tomatoes, anchovy and plenty of basil. We boycotted the meatier mains (the veal chop looked particularly hunky) for a fishier Sunday lunch. My hake was gorgeous and cooked in enough butter to drown a ship – probably why it was so good – and the Liguarian fish stew had a great depth of flavour and generous chunks of fish with the mussels. Although sides weren’t really needed after our starters we’re glad we got them; a pan of delicate courgette fritti and small portion of rainbow chard proved the dishes are sufficiently balanced and portioned on their own. An individually portioned cheese board with homemade crispbread was, again, not too heavy and a slice of tiramisu semifreddo proved every single dish on the menu is created with care and consideration.
What We Drank: Impending thoughts about work the next day meant we limited ourselves to a peach bellini on arrival and a glass of wine each with the food. After leaving the decision up to the waiter he brought over white for me and red for my guest, explaining how the flavour profile of each complimented our main dishes. Wine is available by the glass, carafe or bottle from Northern, Central or Southern Italy and Italian beers sit pride of place on the menu, as do cocktails.
Go With: Visiting family, friends, on your birthday, pre-theatre or Sunday lunch, just make sure you go.
Final Word: A refreshing alternative to the stodgy British Sunday roast, Cafe Murano’s version is packed full of flavour, Italian love and British ingredients. A new favourite.