So what do we need to know about Cafe Murano Covent Garden?
This is the second opening in Angela Hartnett's diffusion line. The first Cafe Murano opened to almost universal critical acclaim in St James back in 2013 and now the second restaurant has opened.
Who's it suitable for?
Anyone from a lone diner, wanting something delicious up at the counter, to the occasional large group of hungry tourists.
Where is it?
You'll find this on Tavistock Street, just around the corner from Mishkins and Opera Tavern - so super handy for Covent Garden shopping, not to mention numerous theatres.
Where should we meet for a drink first?
We spotted several folk meeting in the bar/counter dining section here - and if the quality of our cracking cocktails was anything to do by (the Hemingway Daiquiri is a breezy summer must-have) this wouldn't be a bad choice. But if you're after somewhere a little more capacious, you might prefer the Radio Rooftop Bar at the nearby ME London (if you can stump up the table charge) or maybe the Martini bar at nearby Christopher's.
Where should we sit?
A tough one this. Because the upstairs room is really rather beautiful, we totally get why folk would want to be seated up here. But there's a lot going for the ground floor. The front few banquettes are great for larger groups and personally we really enjoyed eating up at the counter and chatting to the staff.
What should we order?
Not having eaten at the original Cafe Murano (although we have done a Test Drive of Murano itself) we really didn't know what to expect. It turns out that what Covent Garden has on its hands is the kind of creditable, family-friendly Italian restaurant as a tourist you always hope to happen upon, but rarely find. We worked our way soundly through the range of cicheti, anti-pasta, pasta, main courses and desserts (if a job's worth doing, it's worth doing well etc) and standout dishes for us were:
- Vitello tonnato with roast (and fresh) caper berries and lemon (£9) - probably our favourite dish of the evening. Utter heaven.
- Portland crab with scorched onions and apple (£9.50) - sweet onions with generous amounts of crab and apple - not what you might expect from an Italian restaurant, but very welcome
- Agnolotti pasta with guinea fowl and apricots (£11) - the must-have pasta dish, we reckon
- Muscovado tart with creme fraiche (£7) - sweet, wobbly, insanely thin pastry. Other diners have already been ordering two slices of this at a time. It took all our reserves of willpower not to do the same.
And what about drinks?
There is a much longer, more interesting wine list available, but if you're after something by the glass or carafe, as we were, there's a lot to enjoy on the shorter list. The Fiano at £8.50 a glass went well with a lot of what we had. If you are venturing for the pricier bottles, the Slatnik from Radikon would be worth trying (£67).
This is just the kind of restaurant central London needs a lot more of instead of all the usual tourist rubbish, to affirm in visitors' minds that our city is indeed a great place to eat out - whether you're going for fine dining, or just sitting up at the counter having a pasta dish with a glass of decent Italian wine. And we can't wait for the next-door deli to open, serving pasta and sauces to take home for dinner.
Cafe Murano is at 36 Tavistock Street, London WC2 7PB Find out more about Cafe Murano
Hot Dinners were invited to Cafe Murano, prices are correct at the time of writing.