John Gregory-Smith fell for the veal at the new Café Murano Covent Garden.
The slick Café Murano Covent Garden feels like a bigger brother to the St James’s sibling, with an elegant dark wood dining room that extends beyond a bar and little dessert counter into another smart dining room.
The restaurant is in the ‘Opera Quarter’, minutes from the theatres of The Strand and Covent Garden, with a classic Italian menu that draws on Angela Hartnett and head chef Richard Lloyd’s regional knowledge. It’s the perfect spot for a serious post show debrief.
We tucked into a few starters – crispy white onion and rosemary aranchini, joyously salty anchovy and garlic ciabatta and little rings of beautifully golden fried squid, which were slightly lacking crunch but had a good chilli kick and an interesting crisp from deep fried parsley – all were decent enough.
The winner, however, was vitello tonnato. Rare strips of veal topped with tuna sauce and huge green caper berries. The thin slithers of veal were wonderfully braised and made the perfect vehicle for mopping up the thick mayonnaise-like tuna sauce. It was salty and rich and our forks fought over every last scrap.
Braised ox cheek with polenta and waif like flecks of pickled shallots was the perfect remedy to a cold autumn night. Soft and unctuous meat and rich cheesy polenta all covered in an intense meaty jus, the food equivalent of a massive hug. I had a whopping pork cutlet that was juicy and sweet and came with braised berlotti beans. Herby oil and gesture of lemon zest freshened the meat up brilliantly.
Desserts didn’t disappoint. Chocolate mousse covered in amaretti and pistachios was dam good and a beautiful pana cotta delivered that vanilla’d creaminess that I just adore.
Café Murano – 36 Tavistock St, London WC2E 7PB