Good, fresh things
Every day of the year
It was about an hour into our meal at Murano, the new restaurant from the Gordon Ramsay stable and headed up by Angela Hartnett, and things weren’t looking too good. We’d got our wine, we’d got our water and we’d got a nice little amuse of warm Arancini. But that was all about an hour ago and now we were just sitting there twiddling our thumbs, remarking on the rather restrained, even dull, décor and the leaden atmosphere. I’d had some good news that day but this didn’t feel much like a celebration. Then the ham arrived and the evening just got better.
The plate of ham, which came with a selection of bread (but oddly no grissini) and a peppery olive oil was terrific stuff: dense, silky smooth and meaty. Served in a generous pile more akin to a large starter, we fought as only two Hermanos can over every last shred.
Although this only showcased the skill of astute shopping, the first courses that followed proved that the kitchen could cook as well as source. A risotto made with Carnaroli rice was creamy and rich with the grains retaining a good bite. The richness nicely cut by a small blob of pesto, it was declared by HS to be ‘up there’ (young whippersnappers do use some odd phraseology these days and shit).
Vitello Tonnato was wafer thin slices of pink Veal lightly dressed with a sparky combination of pickled baby fennel and capers. On top there were a couple of anchovies encased in a crisp batter. Elegant and delicious.
I’m sure some clever clogs will tell me that they’re all dishes with their roots firmly in Italy (though remember no one likes a smart arse) but with the main courses HS and I seemed to have strayed away from Italy into France and beyond.
HS liked his Halibut which had been confited in Olive Oil but remained firm and flaked attractively. There were some herbs scatter on the fish (dill ?) which he thought over-dominated. There was a good apple and onion puree on the side and a nice red wine sauce brought it all together.
Similarly, there was little to complain about with my Turbot. The fish was good and was cooked accurately. There was a medley (sorry) of good baby vegetables underneath and a light, hammy though slightly over-salted broth with fragments of ham dotted about.
Both were tasty, technically well executed dishes with the sole failing that maybe, just maybe, they should have shown a bit more, as an Italian might say, brio.
Service, which had been a little stiff to start with, warmed up nicely over the course of our meal. Of particular note was the sommelier, who when we expressed disappointment with his choice of wine to match our food, insisted on giving us a couple of glasses of a more suitable wine to finish our main courses with.
As is the norm with high-end dining we got both pre and post-dessert freebies. First, and to my mind, best of all was a selection of sorbets and ice creams. All different flavours and all tasting of their source ingredient.
For pud proper I got a Chocolately thing and HS got a Figgy thing. Actually his Figs infused in red wine with Zabaglione tasted a lot better than it looked and I’m sure my semifreddo was as fine an example of semifreddo as you can get this side of the Mont Blanc tunnel. I could have done with another selection of those ices, though.
HS couldn’t eat his (good) post-dessert Tiramisu owing to a coffee allergy but the kitchen sent him out a little fruit based mouthful. Which was nice.
We probably should have finished there but ploughed on through the fine although ever-so-slightly extraneous mignardises that were on offer. Large pours of expensive grappa were as inappropriate as DH on the pull at the Candy Bar.
As we wobbled into the night we pondered upon our evening and decided that we had enjoyed the experience and that Murano (presumably named after the island next to Venice) had won us round after a hesitant start. But we also wondered how many of the dishes would remain if AH was running her own gaff. We’ll probably never find out and Murano will probably get a Michelin star in the new year.
Oh, and for those who wondered what happened to the Napkin and Mint Tea tests – they never went away and Murano aced them both.