Posted on Friday, 27th February 2009
A girl has to eat, and when a girl has to eat, a girl has to eat well. A fellow girlie friend happened to have the day off from work, and so I had to think of somewhere nice for our girlie lunch. I cranked through the inner recesses of the restaurant database in my brain. Hmm, perhaps something a little bit upmarket. Yes, a Michelin-starred restaurant would be a nice touch. After all good food is what one would expect a girl to eat. Mayfair came to mind, perhaps somewhere near the Elemis spa in case we feel like a bit of pampering afterwards. Aah, what about Angela Hartnett’s recently crowned one-star Michelin restaurant Murano I thought? One-star Michelin, Mayfair, and with Angela Hartnett, one of the most successful female chefs in the country at the helm, it seemed only just to support her restaurant as a nod to girl power.
Murano is one of the restaurants in Gordon Ramsay Holdings’ juggernaut, and Angela Hartnett’s first restaurant since she parted company with the Connaught Hotel in September 2007. Opening in the latter part of 2008, it is slick and impressive, and far less austere and far less white than the Murano website would suggest, although formal nonetheless. A rectangular room with a contemporary, expensive finish and sleek modern furniture, it’s a room that encapsulates the finer things in life that a location in Mayfair would demand and the residents of Mayfair would come to expect. Less impressive was our table. Directly in the line of the doorway which was about three metres away, it made me groan on sight. As I am prone to do, I attempted to have us seated elsewhere but all attempts failed. Did I bat my eyelashes enough? Clearly not. We may have had Mayfair, we may have had a Michelin-star, but a good table we had not. Grimacing whenever I was hit by a stream of cold air every time a diner walked in and out of that front door, I was not in the mood to be easily impressed. But despite my irritation at our seating arrangement which was sure to upset my attitude towards how I would rate our lunch, I must say, I was impressed.
Murano offers a Chef’s seven course tasting menu for £70 and a three course à la carte for £55. Also at lunchtime, there is a three course set lunch menu for £25 (three choices available for starter, main and dessert) which is what we settled for. Given the limited number of vegetarian choices from the set menu, my girlie friend, a vegetarian was permitted to choose both starter and main from the à la carte vegetarian menu, normally priced at £55, and still only pay £25. I was impressed. There would be no half hearted to squish a lesser vegetarian dish into a cheaper set lunch menu.
The food impressed as well. Seared tuna with orange glazed chicory, coriander and pea shoots was divine; the tuna was meaty and succulent. Ever so delicately juxtaposed with a smattering of fine herbs and a side of truffled potato salad, it proved a winning composition, with the flavour of the tuna shining through. The veggie starter of violet artichokes gratinated with grilled courgettes and pepper stew was also a flavoursome triumph. The artichokes were tender and juicy and combined beautifully with the rich sweetness of the pepper stew.
A wet polenta with parmesan and poached farm eggs was dizzyingly tasty. The polenta, made creamy from the soft runny eggs, generated a flavoursome affair with the added combination of earthy, meaty mushrooms. However, a main of braised rabbit lasagne, confit tomatoes, lyonnaise onions and shaved pecorino tasted at odds. Whilst the lasagne pasta was fresh, delicate and subtle, the richness and the heaviness of the rabbit seemed to overwhelm the pasta.
Desserts of a baked cox apple with salted caramel sauce, rum and raisin ice cream was astoundingly good. The apple was soft and warm; the very rummy ice cream was decadently yummy and the sauce was sheer perfection. It was rich and creamy and so skilfully taken to the right level of sweetness and saltiness that it demonstrated an impressively deft touch. A ricotta cheesecake, shortbread and Seville orange compote was pleasant, but unremarkable, and surprisingly a little dense.
I say the food impressed. Yes it did, for where the dishes were good, they were remarkably good as to present to us an incredibly masterful hand. Where they did not quite impress, well, they really weren’t bad. Taken in its totality, the food was Michelin worthy. Furthermore, there was no denying the superiority of the ingredients or the wonderful little added extras that rounded off our meal. To pre-start, we were laden with a bountiful platter of cold cuts, parma ham and coppa ham, so deliciously velvety and smooth that they dissolved exquisitely on my tongue. I rejoiced that my friend was a vegetarian so that I could, and did, eat the whole platter full. Then there were also the little palate cleaners of variously flavoured ice creams and petite fours at the end of our meal, just in case we weren’t full enough.
Service was a touch stiff and initially a little slow. It took a while for our orders to be taken, although in time the service seemed to return to an attentive normality. The wine choices are plentiful and caters to various budgets, although if you fancied just one naughty little glass, you could for instance choose a glass of proseco for a reasonable £7.50.
It was 5pm before we left, four hours deliciously spent, albeit sometimes in the cold. So to the ladies who lunch, and all gentlemen of course, go to Murano with my blessing because the lunch at Murano is a lunch that can’t be beat. The food is good, the set lunch menu is fantastic value with lots of added in-betweens, and for vegetarians there is a good choice of veggie dishes too. Just remember to ask for a table away from the door when you book.
Murano Restaurant at:
20 Queen Street
Tel: 020 7592 1222