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36 Tavistock Street
020 7240 3654
Like its St James’s sibling, this second branch of Café Murano showcases Angela Hartnett's modern Italian cooking in a more casual setting than her Michelin-starred Murano. Spread over two floors, it's a convivial spot for business or dates, though we prefer dining with a group of friends and sharing a selection of characterful regional dishes. The daily menu is fiercely seasonal and allows good ingredients to prove their worth, often in simple, yet effective combinations: a salad of octopus, borlotti beans, olives and preserved lemon, for example, might be followed by rich pork cheeks with creamy white bean purée and chicory. Pasta is a particular delight, either sampled in dishes such as spicy bucatini amatriciana or bought from the ‘pastificio’ next door to take home – along with a bottle of hearty Italian red, of course. "It's hard not to stop for lunch each day I walk past", confides one local. Decent Italian-themed cocktails are another plus, and service is “always with a smile”.
To celebrate the Year of the Woman, SquareMeal is running a series of interview profiles with top female chefs. Read here how Angela Hartnett made it to the top, launched her own group of restaurants and how she describes the secrets of her success.
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Pre and post-theatre dining
Best in Covent Garden
36 Tavistock Street
020 7240 3654
Covent Garden Tube Station 348m
Temple Tube Station 470m
Duchess Theatre 18m
Novello Theatre 57m
Mon-Sat 12N-11pm Sun 11.30am-4pm
Café Murano Covent Garden offers a terrific room on its top floor – enjoy the high wooden beamed ceilings and abstract art – seating up to 50 guests. Its new private dining space within Pastificio (next door to Café Murano) is intimate in style and seats up to 16 for dinner or more for a drinks reception – prior to an occasion in the main restaurant perhaps.
Food & Drink:
Rate & Review
Food + drink: 2
I like Angela Hartnett's cooking a lot, and I simply can't imagine leaving Murano feeling anything but positively about the food and service. And speaking as I find, I have largely felt similarly about Limewood in Hampshire since she became involved.
But I'm incredibly confused about how I'm supposed to respond to this restaurant. It seems to share nothing with Murano at all. It's not "Murano lite" it's "Murano worse" or perhaps more accurately its not Murano at all. There's not a shred of what you get at Murano that's visible here. There is quite simply no credible attempt to translate the values of the parent restaurant to this place. So why call it Murano at all? There are no common values- none. And what satisfaction can Ms Hartnett get from lending her carefully built brand name to a restaurant that is , from what I can see, totally mediocre. I can promise you that if I'd happened to visit Cafe Murano first I wouldn't even think of eating at the parent - I would simply find it hard to accept that any restaurant sharing a name with this one would be likely to deliver quality gourmet cooking. Unlike at Limewood, I can't see anything in this place that is better because it has a star chef associated with it.
I visited on a reasonably busy lunchtime with two old friends and fortunately the emphasis was on conversation not food. I chose two courses from a set lunch menu. A kind of quiche with a few salad leaves, and a pasta main that involved sardines and breadcrumbs and , apparently, fennel. Both of these dishes were just about palatable , the pasta very dry , they both had virtually no flavour. Frankly I've eaten better food on planes, in economy. It wasn't expensive , the service was OK, and the premises, whilst not smart, were about what you'd expect given the menu. However the kitchen contrived to deliver a product that has convinced me not under any circumstances to return.
This is not the first time I've eaten at a mid-market restaurant under the auspices of a chef of some fame and great skill, and emerged unimpressed. I recall eating at Tredwell's, being similarly disappointed , and haven't eaten at any Marcus Wareing restaurant since- I guess they've become devalued in my eyes because of a decision to link themselves to, and profit from, mediocrity.
Food + drink: 4
Lovely place and excellent, friendly and attentive service. The pre theatre menu is good value and the food was of a good quality and very tasty.
The starters arrived promptly, but there was slightly too long a wait for the main course, which meant we were slightly rushed for the theatre, but timings are the only complaint.
I recommend this for food and service.
Cafe Murano is pretty unassuming on the outside. On the inside, a marble bar dominates the length of the dining room, handy for that quick bowl of lunchtime pasta and a cheeky glass of something. I loved that the tables had a decent amount of space between them and for a school night there was a nice buzz about the place.
It didn't take long before we'd sat down and had ordered a Menabrea beer and the Aperitivo Of The Day 'Tramonto di Luglio' (Myers Rum, Maraschino, Apricot, Sweet & Sour, Lavender bitters).
The menu was about to change, but I'm thankful for the selection on offer.
The waiting staff were attentive and offered up help when needed, but weren't overbearing in the slightest.
We had to have the Angela Hartnett signature arancini (£4.50) (did I mention it's her restaurant?) tightly packed risotto rice infused with truffle oil, rolled into balls and breadcrumbs then deep-fried to the perfect crispness.
Salumi with the crispiest Carta di Musica was a good place to start (£12), lots of flavourful meat but the clear winner was the Finocchio or fennel-studded salami.
A well-risen, pillow-soft Rosemary focaccia came with a small saucer (more's the pity) of Planeta olive oil.
We made relatively light work of the plates and moved to the Antipasti. A good-sized portion of octopus, potato and caper leaves lasted no longer than the click of the iPhone (£10.50). Salted and chopped tentacles worked well with the creamy salad potatoes and pickled caper leaves.
The Tagliatelle Amatriciana with grated pecorino was a well-chosen classic (£10.50/£17.00) and didn't disappoint. Lovely ribbons of fresh-egg pasta were tossed in a fresh tomato sauce with a generous grated topping of sharp and salty Pecorino.
Mr opted for the Spaghettini, anchovies and pangrattato (£10.00/£16.50). Again no surprise that the supplier of fresh pasta to Fortnum's around the corner is pretty good at making a good pasta. Being a huge fan of anchovies, he lapped up the dish of flavours, which was crowned with a breadcrumb and chilli crumb.
I thought I was full by this time and then spotted the courgette fritti (£3.75) I managed to work my way through a bowl of deep-fried, batter coated chips of courgette. Amazing.
Mr ploughed on to the Secondi. Beef rump, stracchino, San Marzano and basil (£21.00). What a joy to taste this plump Italian tomato, grown at the foot of Mount Vesuvius, sweet, dark red with the richness of the beef, which cut like butter, draped with creamy stracchino cheese. A perfect plate of food.
In fairness I was full but the salted caramel baked chocolate panna cotta was winking, heavily. This was the only dish which left me slightly disappointed. Sure it was creamy, and a nice set but the depth of flavour just wasn't there, even drizzled with a salted caramel sauce. That said, I ate the whole thing, so it wasn't that bad.
Lastly, the team at Cafe Murano saw it was my Birthday on my booking. I love a Happy Birthday plate and they didn't disappoint.
What a lovely evening. Shame it was a school night. I know we would have stretched it out and will return, without question.
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