Cafe Murano of St James’s is Angela Hartnett’s second solo venture which opened on the 13th of November 2013 with the aim of creating affordable, authentic Northern Italian fare. The exclusively Italian 100-bin wine list will guarantee enough swill to please any palate as well as having your classic Italian cocktails such as the Negroni available this place sure exudes style. It couldn’t be further from a cafe too with equally as attentive staff as it’s older sister restaurant the Michelin starred Murano and matching pristine surroundings unlike most cafes!
The menu which typifies how Italians dine at home/in restaurants is split across ‘Cichetti’ (Small Italian tapas style plates), ‘Antipasti’ (before the meal plates), ‘Primi’ (pasta dishes) ‘Secondi’ (meat dishes) and ‘Contorni’ (salad and vegetables).
Tenuta Delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso 2014 (£45) is fruity and acidic – I could taste some of the tannins coming through too. Not a bad drop at all.
The complimentary focaccia bread with rosemary is delicious – exactly everything you need with that flavourful crust, springy centre and peppery olive oil.
White bait, fritti, preserved lemon (£6). The batter formed a thin crisp shell for those beautifully cooked little fish piled up high, dip it in the aioli and you’d have the perfect bite. I couldn’t restrain myself until they were all gone.
Truffle arancini (£4.5). Mix up that truffle with risotto and deep fry it with bread crumbs and what do you get? A crispy exterior with that all so unctuous truffle perfumed creamy centre. Delicious.
Salumi, carta di musica (£12). That cured meat went so well with those amazingly thin crisp sheets of bread.
Polpette, tomato sauce and caper pangrattato (£7.50). Comforting, juicy little meatballs dusted with crisp breadcrumbs.
Octopus, potato, olive oil & parsley. This plate personifies the Mediterranean in every mouthful- tender cubes of octopus, fresh hunks of cucumber with a seasoned potato (I could taste acidity of some variety on them). All in all a joy to gobble down.
Red wine risotto, radichio & lardo di colonnatta (£10). I generally associate the radichio as a bitter sweet chicory type ingredient in salads but this time it was cooked into the risotto with the red wine richness prevalent – all made even richer with that melting lardo.
Squid ink linguine, Portland crab, chilli & agretti (£11.5). Every mouthful gave you a very punchy crab flavour, probably conducive of combining the brown and white meat together. The agretti also known as the ‘monk’s beard’ is a green shrub like vegetable that gave the dish that quality crunchy freshness.
Hake calçot onions, baby gem & romanesco (£17.50). A very well cooked piece of fish with accompanying vegetables. Those little romanesco or Roman cauliflower were wonderful little things. My only gripe was that the seasoning was too robust for the fish – the natural sweet meatiness became almost bacalao-esque.
Braised ox cheek, polenta, carrots & baby onions (£17). The cheek cooked to a fork-tender and the polenta became a vehicle for all the flavour in the sauce too. The roasted carrots were intensely sweet. Slow cooked heaven.
Cavolo nero (£3.75). Cooked to a perfect tenderness and seasoned beautifully. Cavelo nero should be cooked like this all the time or there will be no hope!
Potato fritti (£3.75). Crispy and delectable, seasoned to perfection and definitely moreish.
When did I go? Feb 2016
The damage: Expect to pay £60-£65 per head for many dishes and a bottle of modestly priced wine.
The good: At this price point with such high standards of cooking you just can’t go wrong, we were all stuffed to the brim and left happy & impressed with Angela Hartnett’s work!
The bad: We didn’t have space for desert.
Cafe Murano, 33 St James’s St, SW1A 1HD
Closest tube: Green Park