Murano … shatterproof Italian

DINING OWL AWARDS5th – value; 2nd – bread

When I visited: Several times from 2013; December 2015; January 2019

Location: London, Mayfair

Team: Angela Hartnett (Executive Chef), Pip Lacey (Head Chef), Sara Kent (General Manager), Raimond Gutschera (Restaurant Manager), Anna Botting (Head Sommelier)

Rating in the Michelin Guide: 1 star

Dining Owl Hoot rating: 4/5

What to wear: Men – jeans or nice trousers and a shirt; women – jeans and a smart top or a smart dress

Ambience: Smart/casual, vibrant, fun

Course of the meal: Roast partridge with butternut squash, cavolo Nero, gnocchi and goats’ curd

If I could change one thing: Always have truffles available!

Review:

I am a big fan of Angela Hartnett’s Murano, which has served me well for important dates with friends as well as family meals. This restaurant is a big step up from Cafe Murano in terms of quality and formality.

In a world where, let’s face it, most Michelin restaurants are of the ‘French’ / ‘modern European’ variety, it’s nice to have an unashamedly Italian take, and this is immediately reflected in the snacks you get on arrival, which include grissini, Italian olive oil and focaccia. The savoury courses in particular are special and there is good use of truffles in pasta and risotto courses.

Most recent visit:

On my most recent visit with family (in January 2019), we got there really early but they seated us in the bar area and we enjoyed a Bellini, Cosmopolitan, and a Peroni with lots of free Parmesan churros (which they kept bringing when we said we liked them). Over dinner we had glasses of white wine (Fiano) and a bottle of red (Amarone).

The waiter emphasised that the menu was flexible; it’s best to choose the same number of courses for each person at the table but you can choose them from anywhere on t he menu and they will adapt the sizes, although they have suggested groupings of similar types of courses listed on the menu. For instance, three of us had the pumpkin tortelli but one had it first, one second and one third so it increased in size each time. Other delicious courses were the mackerel tartare, pecorino fondue, smoked eel and risotto with chestnut and lardo. The lamb shank was good but there wasn’t enough truffle taste given that the truffles were listed as part of this course.

Desserts didn’t disappoint either – the savarin cheesecake with cucumber sorbet was beautifully balanced and the peanut mousse with banana and chocolate was indulgent without being heavy.

As well as the Parmesan churros, other ‘bonus’ courses were a ham and artichoke dip with breads and grissini, a pre-dessert tiramisu and very light petits fours – chocolate fudge and biscotti served with teas and coffees.

Previous visits:

On a visit in 2015, we went for dinner and had the winter menu, starting with a glass each of Lallier Champagne (which was dry and toasty). This was served with canapés – Parmesan crisps and truffle arancini (it is hard not to be partial to truffle arancini, which are very moreish).

The restaurant continued to show why it deserves the above award for bread, with a gorgeous selection of brown, focaccia and grissini with Parma ham, salami and olive oil.

While we were looking at the menus, we noticed a slight mistake in that mine had some courses on which were missing from my partner Owl’s – but this was rectified and explained very quickly once we asked about it. Slightly disappointingly, on our most recent visit they had also run out of winter truffles – usually they are available to add to certain courses. However, as we had the truffle arancini this wasn’t too annoying. Strongly, my cutlery laid out for the first course was also swapped at one point, but perhaps I had slightly the wrong size for some reason.

The winter menu offers lots of flexibility – you can choose up to 5 starters / mains each and the options are all grouped together by type of dish (e.g. vegetarian, fish) with your last one served in a ‘main’ sized portion. We chose 4 small starters / mains to leave room for dessert.

The very helpful female sommelier chose us a delicious bottle of white Californian Byron Chardonnay, which was creamy and buttery with fruity top notes and light gold in colour.

My courses were: manzo di pizza, with charred baby gem, Parmesan, and smoked almonds; oxtail tortellini, with pickled baby onions, tardivo and ricotta salata; halibut and octopus carpaccio with black radish, baby chard, cucumber and paprika butter; and roast partridge with butternut squash, cavolo Nero, gnocchi and goats’ curd. They were all well-balanced and consistent but my favourite was the partridge, which was beautifully tender.

My partner Owl went for: rabbit with charred Brussel sprouts, clementine, quail eggs and pancetta; carnaroli risotto with Parmigiano Reggiano, Cavolo Nero pesto and lard, and then the same third and fourth courses as me.

Our pre-desserts were pots of toasted walnuts with apple sorbet at the bottom and nutty cream in between, which made for a solid palate cleanser. For dessert itself, we went for the cranberry soufflé with biscotti and pistachio ice cream (which was pleasant but could have done with a stronger cranberry flavour) and the honey panna cotta with sesame almond croccante, yoghurt sorbet and honeycomb.

We were also presented with a bonus dessert plate with ‘Congratulation’ written on it:

IMG_3150.JPG

We were a little surprised at this and checked it was definitely for us as we hadn’t specifically booked the dinner as a celebration and hadn’t told the staff about a celebration – but it turned out the plate was for us as we had been discussing the previous year and clinked glasses earlier in the meal and the staff overheard us! The bonus dessert was chocolate brownie squares with candied oranges, orange sauce, toasted cream and dark chocolate writing and was delicious.

We finished off with great teas with petits fours: orange jelly squares and dark chocolate truffles.

Murano has proved itself to be consistent in terms of the the quality of both its food and service and I would definitely recommend it for groups of friends, family celebrations or dates.

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