So thanks to my little 6 month sebatical from the blog world, I now have a massive back-log of restaurants that I’ve been to and need to write about. But, before I go back to fill you in on all my foodie adventures, I really have to share with you all this new place that I’ve been going to: the flavour of the month, if you will.
Some of you might know it as Café Murano – The more casual sister restaurant of the Michelin star Murano, by Angela Hartnett; but ever since I went there for the first time, last week, I now only know it as Café’ Murano – One of my new favourite Italian restaurants in London. Yes, I’m that into it, and I knew it from the minute I walked in…
The atmosphere is lovely; elegant and chic and, according to me, perfectly balanced. The high ceilings combined with leather chairs, old-school lamps and thick curtains enveloping the entrance door are just enough to transport you back to a sereal dining scene of the past but yet somehow still manage to not overpower the overall modern and simple vibe.
One of the first things that drew me to Café Murano, is their constant changing menu. (A menu updated regularly always ensures that the kitchen is using fresh and seasonal produce and guarantees that the dishes are being cooked on a daily basis.) There are only a few other restaurants in London that run in similar ways: Zucca and Trullo, to name a few; both on my top 4 Italians and still yet to disappoint me. So, as you can imagine, when I heard of Café’ Murano – the new addition to St James’ Street, boasting a changing menu and affordable set lunches, I couldn’t wait to get my hand’s dirty.
I first went to Café’ Murano for an impulsive midweek lunch. Upon our arrival, our group was promptly seated at a lovely table in the back section of the restaurant. I thought the design of this little area was brilliant: Separated off by beautiful, slidable glass doors, this little back ‘section’ is completely part of the restaurant when opened (as I suppose it is most of the time) but, when closed, can also give the perfect amount of privacy for a big group party.
We were given two types of menus: the al a carte and then a small card with an optional lunch set menu, offering a choice of two for each course. With everything sounding so delicious, we decided to get a melangee’ of things and share – One two course set menu (at a mere 18 pounds), 3 antipasti, a pasta dish and a fish….
Quite shortly after we had ordered, the waiter brought out our drinks and some lovely foccacia bread (which I won’t bother mumbling on about as I was told it was sourced from the Balthazar bakery in Covent Garden…. I must say though, it was very good) Soon after, our antipasti arrived – Truffle arancini, Caponata Bruschetta, Beef Carpaccio and, our set menu starter, Buffalo Mozzarella with Courgettes.
Being as they were hot and not being able to resist for much longer, I dug into the truffle arancini first. For those of you who don’t know, Arancini are small, stuffed Sicilian rice balls which are coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried. Yum, right? (The name ‘arancini’ was given to these little rice balls because they often resemble, in their shape and colour, small oranges, which in Italian is ‘Arancine’. ) In case you were wondering, (which I highly doubt you were, but I’m gonna tell you anyway…) Arancini are very similar to another type of rice ball called suppli. The main difference between the two is that suppli are more tubular in shape and come from the region of Lazio whereas Arancini are rounder in shape and are from Sicily.
The truffle arancini at Café’ Murano were very decent. The outside was lovely and crisp and on the inside the rice was perfectly cooked and had a delicate truffle flavour. The only thing I would say is that, unlike most other arancini and suppli, these ‘Murano balls’ didn’t have a stuffing. Usually, both arancini and suppli, right in the centre, have a little golden heart of meat ragu (tomato, meat sauce) and/or stringy mozzarella cheese, and I think without this core, the Arancini were slightly lacking. I do realise that had they been stuffed at the centre it would perhaps have overpowered the taste of the truffle, but yet somehow, without it, I thought it felt slightly incomplete.
The other starters were also very good. Beef carpaccio which was beautifully seasoned and cut wafer thin (Definitely one of the better carpaccios in London), creamy and light buffalo mozzarella: perfectly paired with thinly sliced, grilled courgettes and finished with a good drizzle of olive oil, and lastly Caponata Bruschetta: nice and crusty bread topped with Sicilian vegetable stew consisting mainly of aubergines and capers. (I must say honestly, this was my least favourite of the starters… Not that there was anything wrong with it, I just thought that the Caponata didn’t have that rich, velvety mouthfeel and taste that a traditional Caponata should have. Nevertheless, it was still very enjoyable)
For mains we got the Halibut with Asparagus, the mushroom tagliatelle from the set menu and finally the ‘piece de resistance’ – the gnocchi (but I’ll save that one for last)
I only had a little taste of the Halibut, but I must say that from what I had, it was a very well made plate of food: Fantastically cooked fish, just slightly flaking, sprinkled with a golden pile of breadcrumbs and accompanied by beautiful, green asparagus, lightly coated in butter. A lovely light and refreshing lunch dish.
The tagliatelle, on the other hand, I must say, was quite mediocre. Although all the compnents were well made, beutifully thin pasta, lightly sauteed mushrooms… On the whole though, I just thought it was nothing special. A dish that would be easily forgotten.
However, all was forgiven when we dug into the Beautiful gnocchi…. Without a doubt, the best gnocchi dish I’ve ever had! (Gosh, and to think I hesitated about ordering it in the first place) Seriously guys… you gotta try it…
Lightly pan-fried soft pillows of gnocchi coated in a light butter and parmesan emulsion, with indulgent morels, wilted greens, lightly carmelised wild garlic and sweet roasted butternut squash : Abso-f***ing-lutely delicious!
God, I can’t wait to see what they have on their menu next…