Covent Garden has come full circle. It was first known for its famous vegetable and flower market, evolved into a hip, then touristy area of the capital, and has now smartened up its act and cultivated a reputation as a hub for fantastic restaurants cooking some of the freshest market produce available. The latest chic venture comes from Angela Hartnett (pictured), who is opening Cafe Murano Covent Garden (sister to Cafe Murano St James’s), a 140-cover restaurant, on Monday June 29 (with bookings taken from Monday June 22).
The menu has been created by head chef Richard Lloyd, formerly sous chef at Hartnett Holder and Co, inspired by his food-centric jaunts to Italy. Antipasti will include such temptation as octopus with potatoes, capers and paprika, and ricotta courgettes with preserved lemon honey, while pasta dishes include farfalle with rabbit, peas and girolles. Main dishes will focus on whole fish and cuts of meat served to share – and arancini devotees will be happy to know that these risotto balls will appear alongside Cafe Murano St James’s classics such as chicken Milanese and lobster linguine. And with its Tavistock Street location so convenient for theatres and the Royal Opera House, there will be pre-and post-theatre daily set menus (two courses at £16.50 or £21 for three).
The bar team has created new cocktails that make full use of Italy’s spirits and liqueurs – a Lusinghiero is made with a rum and vermouth base, adapted from an old north Italian recipe, while San Siro, with its Branca Menta base mixed with limoncello, lime juice and thyme, will be a refreshing summer choice. And panic not – despite warnings of a prosecco shortage this year, bellinis are very much on the list.
Getting a table will no doubt involve a certain amount of elbow sharpening, so a wonderful way to take some of the Cafe Murano Covent Garden magic home will come from Pastificio next door, which translates from the Italian as “pasta factory”. Hartnett classics such as spinach and ricotta tortelli and meaty anolini, alongside a mouthwatering range of sauces (and a robust selection of Italian wines), will be available to cook at home.