Cafe Murano of St James’s is Angela Hartnett’s second solo outpost. It’s been around since the 13th of November 2013 with an aim of creating affordable Northern Italian fare. The 100+ wine bin is exclusively Italian, and is probably guaranteed to get you well lubricated for the task ahead. There is also a bartender who can shake or stir the classics. Mine is alway a Negroni as I exude Italian style just like this joint. Which leads me to say that it couldn’t be further away from a “cafe” as it’s name suggests, and also the staff have the same attentive tendencies as its Michelin sibling Murano. We were in for a good ride.
Onto 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 smooth 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 rustically cut potato, all 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 naughtier 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, the polenta a vehicle for all the rich sauce flavour. The roasted carrots gave a stewed sweetness to counterpoint the richness. 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 really whine. We were all stuffed to the brim and left happy & impressed with Angela Hartnett’s work yet again.
The bad: We were so well fed that we didn’t have space for desert. Which can’t be a bad thing really?
Cafe Murano, 33 St James’s St, SW1A 1HD
Closest tube: Green Park