20 Queen Street
Tel. 020 7495 1127
Food type: Italian
Nearest tube: Green Park
Murano began life as part of another Gordon Ramsay restaurant with his protegé, Angela Hartnett chosen to helm it. Subsequently with the economic down turn and Gordon Ramsay Holding suffering from financial strain, Angela was offered the option to buy out Ramsay’s share and take full control of the restaurant. This meant that she had full creative control of the menu. Nevertheless, a lot of Ramsay’s influence can still be seen in her cooking.
The menu is unique in the sense that it does not have a tasting menu per se. Instead the diner gets to choose between 2, 3, 4 or 5 savoury courses (priced between £50 to £85, desserts are charged separately) from the a la carte menu which consists of 4 different choices of starters, pasta, antipasti, fish and meat courses – the restaurant will adjust the portions accordingly. If you are feeling carnivorous you could opt for 4 different meat courses or you could be like me and prefer to carb load on pasta.
Whilst the restaurant markets itself as an Italian restaurant, there are definitely plenty of modern european touches in the cooking reflecting Angela’s Welsh-Italian heritage and her training under Ramsay which is classical French. This is particularly true with desserts which sees dishes such as tarte tatin, soufflé and millefeuille on the menu.
The meal begins with an excellent array of nibbles best enjoyed with a glass or two of Krug. Yes, Murano is one of the few restaurants in London which serves my favourite champagne, Krug – both Grande Cuvée and Rosé – by the glass. Of the array of nibbles, the absolute winner has to be the truffled arancini which were inhaled in a split second. They were quick to offer seconds, an offer which was instantly snapped up.
One of the biggest strengths of the restaurant is of course their pasta dishes. What may surprise most diners however is their ability to cook sweetbreads at a level which would put most French restaurants to shame. The secret here is the use of a small pinch of curry powder which gives the sweetbreads an extra dimension. A current dish on the menu combines the best of both worlds with beautiful pasta in the form of farfalle with crispy sweetbreads, tied together by a tangy apple compote.
Another absolutely stellar dish is hogget loin with crispy bread. Hogget is rarely seen on menus around England, but when tasting this dish, you wonder why it doesn’t feature more. The meat is roasted and served beautifully pink with some creamy goats cheese providing the perfect counterpoint to the gamey meat.
Unfortunately, desserts are not able to keep pace with the rest of the meal. By no means are they bad or poorly conceived. Rather, it is because the savoury courses here are so good that desserts seem almost anti-climactic. Take for example the millefeuille which is a regular feature on the menu – it is very good but is simply outclassed by the version produced at Hibiscus which is just around the corner.
That said, there is plenty to love with Murano – an elegant dining room, slick and attentive service, generous portions and some of the best Italian food available in London. You just feel if they can improve on the desserts they can take the restaurant to another level.