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 this place sure exudes Italian style. It couldn’t be further from a “cafe” too as it comes 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.
Octopus, potato, olive oil & parsley. This plate personifies the Mediterranean in every mouthful, tender cubes of octopus, fresh hunks of cucumber with cubes of seasoned potato, dressed in a nice acidic flavour. 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 item in salads, but this time it was cooked into the risotto with a prevalent red wine richness, that was made even richer with the 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 a 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.
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