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|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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One of the burning issues of the day, for me anyway, is how thinly a top chef can spread himself/herself and still turn out food that they're proud of. And how much down the scale towards simple to prepare food they're prepared to go after they've made their name with more complex, more sophisticated and dare I say it, more interesting stuff. I mean, when you've reached a level of achievement that Michelin and the like are happy to recognise, where's the sense of achievement in turning out (even if only in a proprietorial or supervisory capacity) the type of food lots of people can and do cook, such as Penne Carbonara which is served here? I can understand a mission to make the very best Carbonara in the world, ever. I can understand that a chef might eventually become constrained by the style of and expectations from the restaurant that made their name. I guess I'm just struggling a bit with the idea that a chef might volunteer to work even harder, open a raft of restaurants serving all sorts of different styles and qualities of food and find it interesting enough to pursue real excellence in all these fields rather than just exploiting the brand.
Now I have really enjoyed Ms Hartnett's food. I've eaten at Murano quite a few times and I don't think its exaggerating to say that I've positively enjoyed every single dish I've had there. Then a couple of weeks ago I visited ( and reviewed here) the Hartnett and Holder venture at the Lime Wood near Lyndhurst. It was really very good. At Café Murano, today, everything we ate was nicely cooked. However I think we'd both say that no heights were hit and nothing we ate was terribly interesting. We ate two courses each. My first, Octopus, chickpeas and pesto, was ok, but the flavours of the octopus and chickpeas were a bit drowned by the tomato in the dish and existed primarily as textures. I ordered the Penne Carbonara a little reluctantly as I'd hoped to have another pasta dish with beef that I'd seen on their website but sadly it wasn't on the menu we were given today and has now disappeared from the website too it seems. Pity, I can't get that everywhere. The Carbonara was pleasant enough but was frankly just a little better than what I'd expect at a good trattoria. My wife had bruschetta and a vegetable fettucine. In her own marking system she gave each of them 6.5 out of 10, and again referred to the ordinariness of what she'd eaten. We drank a Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, admittedly the cheapest on their list at £19.50 and it wasn't remotely unpleasant, but just slid away without us appearing to notice.
I should say that the service we received was pleasant and cheerful, albeit a little rapid- we 'd done including coffee in little over an hour. Our bill with two starters, two pastas, wine and coffee with service was £85. Portion sizes on my food were not large, no-one offered more bread above the one piece and the tiniest drizzle of a good oil we were given at the outset. All told we felt value wasn't a real strength here, and I don't think we're likely to be back for a while anyway. For this sort of food, we'd suggest that Zucca in Bermondsey provides a more flavoursome and imaginative experience for a similar tariff.
But back to my initial issue, I wonder whether those who had eaten in Murano might have expected a little more of the magic to travel the few hundred yards from Queen Street to here. And I wonder how may of those eating here who haven't eaten in Murano will feel compelled to do so by their experience here? And if not, what's the benefit of using the Murano name ?