You’d think that after my recent disappointment with dinner at Locanda Locatelli that I’d swear off high-end Italian restaurants for a while, but it was my friend L’s birthday, and a celebration was in order. We figured we were due for a revisit to Murano, Angela Hartnett’s flagship restaurant in Mayfair, so off we went.
Despite my having only good memories of both a lunch and dinner at Murano, I haven’t been back in over a year. The place still feels cozy and plush, and happily, while you’re scanning the menu, Murano still serves fresh-from-the-fryer, truffle-perfumed arancini, great breads and silky charcuterie. It’s nice when the good things haven’t changed.
In the past, I hadn’t noticed a contrast between the tasting menu offerings and those of the a la carte. This time around, though, the tasting menu read a lot more Italian with its appealing-sounding scapece, bresaola and vitello/veal courses. Unfortunately, having arrived for a late seating and having already filled up on snacks at the nearby and excellent Connaught Bar, our group chose the a la carte. Three courses for £65; four courses for £75.
My starter of lobster linguine (pictured at top) was the highlight of dinner, with generous chunks of juicy, sweet lobster served with gorgeously al dente linguine. There was chili and garlic kick, smoothed out by the sweet tomato sauce. This beat Locanda Locatelli’s version by a mile.
A friend’s sweetbreads ticked the silky-meaty box, though the piece I tried didn’t taste much of the smoked maple dressing, which I’d been curious about. L’s carnaroli leek risotto with braised oxtail had great balance between meat and creamy starch until the last overly-sweet notes of vinegar kicked in.
Not to get too possessive, but “my” pork belly was also outstanding, though lacking in identifiably Italian characteristics. The braised cheek added texture and meatiness to the lusciously fatty pork belly (with skin crisped to perfection). If I had to choose only one adjective to describe the best parts of our meal, it’d be silky. So yes, the pork belly was silky silky silky.
Jon’s monkfish Meuniere was the only real clunker I remember from the evening. The ingredients sounded brilliant on the menu, but nothing really blended in actuality. A crispy lardon here, a perfectly-battered piece of fish there . . . .
Pistachio soufflé, served hot and airy. Picture perfect and tough not to love, though it was a tad too sugary for me. The warm bittersweet chocolate helped balance out the sugar, though.
Overall, while we had a few misses this time on the a la carte, Murano remains my fave of the high-end Italian restaurants in London, though admittedly it is the most Frenchified of the Italian restaurants. (The cheese cart is a wonder). If you stick with the tasting menu, the place will feel more Italian, though.
Murano’s service was attentive and friendly as ever, though entertainingly a couple of servers must not have noticed I was preggars because they kept pushing the wine (“Oh come on, it’s Friday night! You should have another glass!”). I guess the spacious table miraculously hid away my enormous self and the servers don’t communicate this sort of thing with each other, but I could have done with less pressure as I was already feeling a little guilty about two large glasses I’d enjoyed.
Murano, 20 Queen Street, W1J 5PP; 0207 495 1127; closest Tube station: Green Park.
- My post on Murano’s weekday lunch menu (December 2008)
- My post on Murano’s tasting menu (August 2009)
- My recent visit to Locanda Locatelli (March 2011)
- My post on fellow high-end Italian, L’Anima (July 2009)