20 Queen Street
Tel. 020 7495 1127
Food type: Italian
Nearest tube: Green Park
We recently dropped by Murano for a casual Friday lunch. Despite being plenty of options for high-end Italian dining in London, Murano is our go-to place for Italian food as it is my wife’s favourite. I think the term ‘Italian inspired’ would probably be more accurate, as Angela Hartnett also draws from her French training with Ramsay to include techniques and dishes which are more likely to be seen in a French restaurant. In saying that though, in recent months, I have noted that the cooking is heading back towards its Italian roots with less French inspired elements on the menu.
Now despite being lunch, we both came completely starving and hence opted for the full 5 course menu from the a la carte. The menu format has not changed from when we last visited – you can build your own tasting menu if you wish from the extensive a la carte menu or stick to a brief 3 course menu if you so please. While browsing the menu, we were brought some excellent San Daniele ham which I understand is cured in-house to go with some in season and very sweet melon. A bread basket soon followed and the focaccia is as good as from the last time.
I started my meal with a scallop ceviche, with charred corn to bring a smoky-sweet element to the dish. The scallops had been very gently cured with acid and while I would have preferred a little more acidity to be used, this was a personal matter of taste and it did allow the sweetness of the scallop to come through nicely. In fact much of the acidity on the plate came from the girolles which had been pickled, while also lending some earthiness to an otherwise very fresh dish.
Next up was the pasta course which is often where the restaurant shines. I sometimes wonder if I should just order 5 pasta dishes here and call it a day. The squid ink farfalle is a relatively new dish on the menu. I loved the texture of the pasta here – very firm and properly al dente. This may not be to many peoples liking and my wife would complain that the pasta I cook at home is often too firm. But this is pasta as Italians would eat it. The cuttlefish had been cooked in some sort of ragout to give it a soft, gelatinous texture balanced by the tomatoes running through it. This was my favourite dish of the day.
I followed with my ‘salad’ course which was an excuse for me to carb load some more. On a piece of onion bread was a fresh, seasonal salad of broad beans (properly shelled), mint and pistachios with a generous helping of jersey royals. The grilled onion bread was sinfully delicious – the onions giving a nice charred, sweet, caramelised note which was almost as bad as eating fried bread. Good thing then that there was a nice, refreshing salad to balance the richness from the bread.
For my fish course, I opted for the halibut which is not a fish I would normally order. The main draw was the razor clams coming with it but I was told that they had swapped them for surf clams. That’s good enough for me. The halibut was nicely timed and moist but what I found interesting was the addition of the honey soused tomatoes. I’m not sure what to make of it though because the honey element was certainly present and it felt strange eating fish with honey, even if it tasted nice. I guess the flavour combination is unusual and my mind just needs some time to get used to it, much like when I first encountered vanilla with fish. There were some bitter leaves (at a guess it would be treviso) to balance out the sweetness.
Finally for mains, I opted for the smoked pigeon, with charred corn and figs. The pigeon was nicely timed and the smoking very gentle. For me, the pigeon could have done with a bit more smoking, but again this is another matter of preference. The smoke element was clearly present. I loved the sweet, jammy figs alongside the gamey pigeon.
At this point, we were both relatively full and thus declined cheese. However, I could not turn down the Amalfi lemon tart that was on the menu. It was what it says it is – a slice of lemon tart with no frivolity. This was a sign of confidence from the chef. Basically saying, my lemon tart is so good, I do not need to overcomplicate things. First off, the pastry. Just look at the picture and you can see how thin the tart shell is. The pastry just simply melted in the mouth when it hit my tongue. And lest we forget about the lemon curd filling which was sharp, fragrant and had that unique aroma that you get from Amalfi lemons. It was splendid. The filling had just barely set, so it felt incredible light on the palate. This was easily the best lemon tart I have eaten.
Pip Lacey has taken over as head chef at Murano and having had time to settle in nicely into her new role, the cooking here is now a lot more consistent compared to her earlier days. The strengths of the restaurant is unsurprisingly with their pastas and risottos and while the desserts here may be simplistic they were very tasty nonetheless. The restaurant is clearly doing something right when at a time that many high-end restaurants in Mayfair struggle to draw in the punters, they are consistently packed.