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Margot is currently the name on everybody’s lips, because this classy Italian off Drury Lane is the result of years of impressive networking. Co-founders Nicolas Jaouën and Paulo de Tarso certainly know their hospitality: de Tarso spent nearly six years as maître d’ at Bar Boulud, while Jaouën was the first general manager of Balthazar. Attention to service is the top priority – from the bowler-hatted doorman and white-suited bar staff, to the ornate silver olive oil jugs. But on our visit, the kitchen wasn’t yet comparable with the cossetting ambience. The fairly priced menu follows the classic Italian route, incorporating interesting salumi and cheese, raw cuts, then starters, pastas and hearty mains. We began with a rather muted antipasti of crab salad served with pickled cucumber and avocado smears, followed by gnocchi in Amatriciana sauce that was fine and filling, if unmemorable. In contrast, baked veal osso buco wholly justified its high price, the jus-drizzled meat submitting to the fork with melting supplication, atop bright-yellow saffron risotto. And if you can judge an Italian by its tiramisu, Margot’s petite, light, creamy version shows a kitchen with ample potential. A jumble of patterns and artworks decorate the ground floor, leaving the more restrained basement dining room to conjure up the restaurant’s classiest, more subdued moments. With a weekend brunch menu and a wine list boasting Italian sparklers and French heavyweights, there’s much to enjoy here, but the food needs to dazzle as much as Jaouën’s smile if Margot wants to become Covent Garden’s next grande dame.
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