REVIEW: Cafe Murano, Covent Garden

We visited Cafe Murano on the third night of its launch week for two reasons. Firstly, our extremely talented friend works in the kitchen. Secondly, I’m a huge fan of Angela. I remember watching her on one of Gordon Ramsay’s TV shows way back when. He was training some chef-y wannabes to do what he does and she was his right hand woman. I wasn’t the girl power town cryer I am now then, but she was the first lady chef I saw on TV and inspired me to get in the kitchen. So that’s why we trotted out into the blistering heat of the city and positioned ourselves in a plush leather booth at a beautiful marble table in the extremely inviting new restaurant in Covent Garden. Want to see what we ate? It’s more a question of what we didn’t eat..

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Cafe Murano is best-described as modern Italian, with an emphasis on tastes and ingredients well-used in the North of the beautiful country. It’s homemade pasta swirled with tasty sauce, hearty meats teamed with sweet fruit, melty gnocchi, creamy mozzarella, smell-it-before-you-see-it basil… All with a contemporary edge. The antipasti and mains are lighter than you’d imagine and the brilliant waiters and waitresses recommend sampling a few things from each part of the menu and sharing (something me and my boyfriend are reeeeeally working on!). Talking of the brilliant front of house, they were all incredibly friendly, knowledgeable and professional. Their getup of jeans and a shirt makes you feel comfortable and their tales of personal favourites as well as their know-how when it comes to the Italian-centric wine menu is exceptional.

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Back to the table and we were greeted with a glass of icy cold bubbles – very welcome because, did I mention the heatwave we were experiencing!? – and beautifully buttery tomato focaccia. Next we were bought a little taster of the arincini stuffed with broad beans and rosemary, alongside a creamy ricotta-esque something atop crunchy grilled bread. As for the vino, we went for a heavy, full-bodied and very very bold number, which we were pre-warned about. Lacrima di Morro d’Alba ‘Paradiso’ San Lorenzo, we were told would need a little breathing time and would be better-suited to the richer edible accompaniments on offer, which was stellar advice. You probably wouldn’t want more than one bottle of this dark cherry-meets-liquorish wine because it really is a brazen drop, but you definitely need that first one. A new favourite for sure.

Next up: a peachy salad with green beans and almonds as well as piles of mozzarella, drenched in oil and topped with lentils and basil. Already feeling well-fed we moved on to the bigger dishes, opting to split robiolo and black olive gnocchi. As I mentioned, Alex and I aren’t as familiar with sharing as a couple of 6 years should be, but that wasn’t an issue here. The shareable puffy potato dish was bought to the table in a chrome saucepan and poured across our two bowls. No fighting over the last mouthful necessary! Creamy yet light, this dish is really melt-in-the-mouth and a great warm up to the braised lamb shoulder, Tuscan bean and celery stew we chose next. We had that with a sturdier, crispier take on potatoes, which were great for mopping up the stocky sauce the meat was bobbing in.

We almost didn’t have pudding but despite it being the opening week I’d already seen some of my favourite foodies Instagramming *that* muscovado tart, so I had to try it. And, we needed to get a back-up for Alex to try in case my sharing streak came to a halt. He went for the panna cotta with strawberries, which I see from stalking Cafe Murano-goers since is mixed up depending on what’s available and tasty in the fruit department that week. Quite happily we were actually bought some of the rest of the dessert menu to sample too and not wanting to be rude, we pretty much polished off a sweet sweet tiramisu and apricot and pistachio semifreddo as well. And for the record, the muscovado tart was the best pud I’ve tasted in a long time- sweet, sour, softer than you’d think and very easy to eat. A few more glasses of bubbly and we were ready to leave, but they weren’t done with us yet and promised, though it was ‘the last one’, we simply had to finish on the melon sorbet. And we obliged. I’m used to more obvious sorbet flavours, like mango or lemon but the light melon scoop really slipped down without any trouble. Then it was time to leave.

But not before a quick trip down the stairs to the kitchen to sympathise with the heat those lovely lovely chefs were cooking in, wave at our mate and tell Angela Hartnett, ‘I love you’, of course. This encounter may well have earned me a restraining order but it also made my night. Go to Cafe Murano, you will not be disappointed.
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Freelance writer, eater, drinker and cook living in London.

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