For decades Covent Garden has been associated with tourists and its offering as such has done little to encourage locals to visit. If anything it has been an area that people who live in London avoid, circumvented or scuttled through on the way to somewhere else. Now things are changing and there is a steady growth of independent restaurants and cafes that make Covent Garden worth a second thought. There is the charming wine bar come bistro the 10 Cases; the excellent Swedish Café Bakery, the Bageriet; and Dalla Terra, which has the largest selection of Italian wine in the country. More recently Sky Gyngell has opened her restaurant, Spring near Aldwych and now Angela Hartnett has brought Café Murano to the Opera Quarter. This will be her third restaurant and the second Café Murano.
For those who don’t know Angela Hartnett is something of a celebrity on London’s gastronomic scene. Not only does she have a Michelin-star for her Mayfair restaurant Murano, she has built a devout following of diners in St James’s since opening Café Murano there. It is fair to say that most foodies and food critics are rather fond of Angela Hartnett as she is a mighty very fine cook and nice person too (apparently). Her specialty is Northern Italian cuisine and the menu at Café Murano Covent Garden reflects this. As you would expect from someone with a Michelin-star and restaurants in places like Mayfair and St James’s the ingredients are of the finest quality and as fresh as they can possibly be.
The restaurant is beautifully designed, thanks to Russell Sage the designer behind many of London’s most iconic restaurants. The ground floor has a trattoria feel to it with a dark interior of wood walls, terracotta leather banquette seating and a Carrera marble dining counter. The upstairs is completely different; the space is flooded with natural light thanks to a modern ceiling made of a lattice of wood and glass, which allows the light to stream in. Both floors are lovely, as is the service which is extremely professional but still warm and friendly.
The whole menu is mouthwatering and as someone who is enjoys vegetable-centric food Café Murano is an absolute treat. The menu is simple, although it seems to pack an awful lot of choice into its concise offerings of snacks, antipasti, pastas and mains. Our favourites included the Mammole artichokes with parsley, the Green bean, fresh almonds & peach and the Broad bean and rosemary arancini, which everyone who’s anyone on the gastronomic scene seems to be describing as sublime. The pastas and mains are equally simple and imaginative, we had the Farfelle, peas & girolles, which was superb. And yes the deserts are divine (save space for the muscavado tart with Crème fraîche) and the wine list excellent.
When we visited, Café Murano had been open less than a month and it was already buzzing. Give it a few more weeks and I imagine diners will have to book well in advance to get a table. But the good news is that next door Hartnett has opened Pastificio – or ‘pasta factory’ – here there are a few stools around a low communal table for drop-in customers and a whole selection of salumi, fresh pasta, sauces, oils, bread and wine to take away, so even if you can’t get a table you won’t have to go home too disappointed.
Café Murano, 36 Tavistock Street, London, WC2 7PB