Café Murano – London

“Angela Hartnett’s informal Italian emporium doesn’t disappoint”

 Housed alongside more mainstream offers in Covent Garden the Cafe Murano cuts a rather elegant dash. Tastefully understated sagey green paintwork with gold lettering smacked of class. We’d booked a 5.30 session on account of a classical ‘Evanescence’ gig on the South Bank (a pleasant stroll over Waterloo Bridge).

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We ventured in. Its like The Tardis, it goes back miles. Its already bustling, so much so we are eventually seated upstairs beneath a latticework roof. Blue leather, smart oak work and graphical prints took the eye.

We’re soon on the menu. A sumptuous a La Carte is on offer, though we plumb for the single A5 sheet, easter special, three courses for £28. A sixteen pound demi decanter of red is soon in situ, along with the branded water.

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An amouse bouche of mushroom arancini is wolfed down with glee. I order up the octopus with baby gem, datterini and basil salad. Perfect slices of tender tentacle with a beautifully dressed, simple salad. The Flame went for an equally simple tuna cappachio, grapefruit, samphire, chilli and hazelnut salad. Both exquisite.

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For the main course I went for the lamb roast, salsa rosso, jersey royals with mint and fennel. For an extra £4 I went for a cheesy dollop of salty polenta. The lamb melted with flavour. The Flame had the sea bream with baby gem and a Sicilian caponata. She also had a mixed salad side. By now the place had filled up and the wine was flowing.

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Our service, as expected was exemplary. We chose desserts off piste so to speak. I had arguably the best tiramisu Ive ever had. Wonderfully soft, boozy and creamy. The Flame had a slightly disappointing cheese dish. Marred slightly by the mustard jelly accompaniment which wasn’t to her taste at all. It was pretty powerful stuff I must admit.

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All in all though a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Smart service, elegant surroundings with beautifully simple food made using the finest ingredients. Angela has a deli next door (Pastificio) and another smarter gaff in St James Street. We didn’t get chance to check the others out but I’m sure they’ll all be quality. I’d be there again in a shot…

0203 535 7884
coventgarden @cafemurano.co.uk
34 Tavistock Street
London WC2E 7PB

020 7240 3654
coventgarden @cafemurano.co.uk
36 Tavistock Street
London WC2E 7PB
Pastificio

020 3371 5559
reception @cafemurano.co.uk
33 St. James’s Street
London SW1A 1HD

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The Jumble Room – Grasmere, Cumbria

“Jumble by name, Jumble by Interior and menu! But it all turned out rather splendid in the end….”
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I’ve fancied this for years. It was featured in the Sunday Times as a top bistro type affair. I finally made it over the weekend when out schlepping round Grasmere and The Lakes with some chums from Yorkshire. The Jumble Room is set down a leafy track from the centre of arguably the prettiest village in Cumbria. It’s a tiny space that juts out from nowhere in a riot of haberdashery which festoons two large windows. Its family run by Chrissy and Andy who’ve run the place as an independent, gastronomic emporium for over 23 years. I’m sure you’ll agree a fine and enviable achievement.
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We surveyed the elegant, single page menu whilst marvelling at the eccentric interior. Platoons of intricately embroidered cushions litter the basic wooden benches, while the vibrant red walls house a flurry of hand painted caricatures of the local cattle and sheep. Comics, Indian sayings and ‘Herdy’ salt and pepper cellars complete the look. I loved it.
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The menu is short, a few starters, a few mains, a few desserts. Cuisine is from all over the place, though mainly eastern. How about Persian lamb? The Thriller from Manilla? Pinatubo Chicken? This is not a chips, steak and onion rings type of place!

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Spanish salad, the menu, decent pale ale, crab crostini

We started with a slate of kicking crab crostini, Whitby crab laced with basil, coriander and a fleck of chilli (£8.50) a bucket of plump olives with homemade bread (£3.95) and a glorious Spanish salad, marinated figs, manchego cheese with hazelnuts slicked in a red wine and balsamic dress (£7.95). The Flame loved her salad (as always!) Whilst I woilfed the spicy crabby crisps.

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Malaysian seafood curry, chicken pinatubo, persian chicken, teryaki steak

For mains I went against my normal mantra of not having a restaurant curry by having the Malaysian seafood curry (£20.00), featuring prawns like babies fists, hunks of hake and glorious lumps of salmon. A veritable feast of flavour. The spice building beautifully with each tender morsel.

The Flame swapped the lamb for chicken in the Persian dish (£23.00). It came served on hummus, roasted aubergine, butternut squash drizzled with pomegranate molasses. A riot of flavour and textures…..glorious.

The Pinatubo Chicken (£18.00) was tested out by Julie. Set with a spicy lemongrass and coconut sauce and a fragrant annatto egg fried rice and greens. I managed to sneak a bit of the rice which was laced with peanuts too. Another tremendous dish.

The fourth member of the team had some difficulty finding something from the menu, so we requested a simple steak and chips which the team duly brought together, albeit swamped in a teriyaki sauce and a flurry of stir fried veg.

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The cheeses, pavlova, gingerbread cake

We even had desserts. Me a towering pavlova, whilst many adopted the sumptuous, family recipe of rushbearing gingerbread cake and ice cream, each at £7.50. Gingered and moistened upto 11, historic. We then munched on probably the most beautifully presented, complimentary, cheese boards ever.

IMG_2174 With a couple of house bottles the whole lot cruised in at £190 for the four of us. For me it met all expectations. A wonderfully eccentric decor allied to a wonderfully eclectic menu made a thrilling experience for me. Such is the small layout it does suffer from having two doors that head straight outside to the street meaning on a cold day/eve one could suffer on certain tables from a touch of leg draught, but its all part of the fun. Its probably not for anyone with simple tastes, but as we found, don’t be afraid to ask. This wonderful team are more than happy to switch things around to accommodate.

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The whole place is quirky and fun, it even has a Slade album cover in the loos……It’s a must do from me……

The Jumble Room
Langdale Road
Grasmere
Cumbria
LA22 9SU
T 01539 435188
http://www.thejumbleroom.co.uk