Find and book great restaurantsFind a Restaurant
|Address:||33 St James’s Street, London SW1A 1HD|
|Tel:||020 3371 5559|
|Price: £51.00||Wine: £19.50||Champagne: £50.00|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Sat 12N-3pm 5.30-11pm|
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Those of you with long memories, or who are just quite old, will recall that Petrus used to be on St James’ and saw the start of many of London’s now most celebrated chefs careers. Marcus Wareing, Jason Atherton and Angela Hartnett all survived Gordon Ramsay’s verbal batterings and have gone on to make really rather decent careers of their own. And now, in a Lion King, circle of life, moment Angela Hartnett returns to the former Petrus site with her latest venture Café Murano.
Those of you who follow Giles Coren on Twitter will notice he’s spent the past couple of weeks singing the praises of this new (it'd only been open less than 3 weeks when we went) venture and on the night we went he, plus two colleagues, was sat at the next table. It’s a brave man who’ll disagree with Mr Coren’s restaurant recommendations – after all he gets paid to eat out – and I didn’t mind Café Murano, but I suspect I’ll be rather less forthcoming with unqualified praise than he’ll be.
As a venue it’s perfectly decent, don’t expect it to be showy or flash, its not one of London’s great dining rooms. It reminded me a little of Daphne’s in terms of colour scheme, but is a long narrow front with a bar on one side and a wider seating area at the back. The narrowness of the front is a bit of an issue if you are sat on the bar side of the room rather than in the cosy banquettes, as you’ll get knocked into by staff and diners as they pass – I was on several occasions. But it was warm, bright, clean and tidy and not too noisy.
The staff are a funny mix – our waitress was lovely, chatty, friendly and really switched on. But when we asked, for one main course of lamb, to have a sharp knife we got the strangest of reactions – rather than proffering a sharp steak knife we were informed, in a distinctly patronising manner by one of the front of house staff, the restaurant didn’t have these and then asked if the lamb should be taken away to the kitchen and cut into bite size pieces. Wrong on loads of levels; for example, we aren’t kids who need our dinner cut up, the male member of staff was as snidely patronising as could be etc. I guarantee this wouldn’t have happened in a Jason Atherton restaurant where he always gets staff recruitment spot on and looking at Twitter and one or two reviews online we seem to be far from the only people to have found some issues with the service. It’s a shame as the waitress was brilliant, but it did sour the experience. Hopefully its just teething problems and some of the staff will find their more natural vocation in something that doesn't require customer service.
As for food it’s alright, not up to the standards of Brasserie Chavot or Pollen Street Social but decent enough. Bread is nice – warm rosemary focaccia with olive oil gets things off to a welcome start and there doesn’t seem to be any limit on how many times they’ll re-supply you. I started with mushroom gnocchi – the gnocchi themselves were fantastic, sticky, fluffy potato clouds and the mushrooms they came with were perfectly acceptable, fat and tasty, but the real problem was it like they’d never met each other before arriving on my plate – there was nothing to tie them together, it was a dish of mushroom and gnocchi, rather than mushroom gnocchi. This was followed by hake with black olives and thinly sliced potatoes – a touch over salted, but lovely firm fish and really good accompanied by the roasted butternut squash – something I’d not previously had, but sweet and sticky almost burnt and caramelised perfection. This was followed by apple tart with cream – the apples having a great, almost mincemeat, taste and light pastry – could have done with being a bit warmer when it arrived but otherwise perfectly decent.
Value for money was alright – for 3 courses, wine, water and service prices were around £60 per head.
So would I go again? Not sure if I’m honest – there are better options for not much more money and recently I preferred both Berners Tavern and Union Street Café and it certainly doesn’t hold a candle to Brasserie Chavot, Pollen Street or Koffman’s.