GFG archives

Through the archives: Angela Hartnett at Murano
Published 22 June 2022

When, in 2002, Gordon Ramsay put one of his star protégés in charge of the Connaught the shock expressed by the old guard at an institution and formerly male bastion being rejuvenated by a female chef made headlines. In 2008, Angela Hartnett went on to open Murano, originally with Gordon Ramsay Holdings. Tucked discreetly in among the converted townhouse offices of Mayfair, Angela Hartnett's Murano has been a major-league dining establishment for 14 years.

The Good Food Guide 2010

In moving from the Connaught to new premises in Mayfair, Angela Hartnett has upped her game considerably. Murano is a stylish and elegant room, handsomely decorated in neutral tones with carefully judged lighting. Service is professional, effortless and exceptionally polite, while the menu showcases Hartnett’s understanding of the subtleties of Italian food. There's much to surprise and delight at prices that seem like kindness itself. Indeed, the lunch menu is considered some of the best-value fine dining in London. Reporters have praised a delicate mackerel tart served with confit lemon and olive vinaigrette, and braised rabbit leg with apricot stuffing and wet polenta, as well as ravioli of king prawn with pickled fennel ‘complemented by wonderful raisin purée’, and the ‘great combination of flavours’ found in a loin of pork braised in milk and served with crushed new potatoes and black pudding. Not to be outdone, a tasting menu that took in turbot confit in olive oil with celeriac purée and red wine reduction, a herb salad with apple, sesame seeds and cider vinaigrette, then English lamb with caramelised sweetbreads and artichokes showed no gimmickry – everything was perfectly fresh. Meals open with Parma ham and coppa, great olive oil and a selection of breads. Miniature sorbets (‘the basil was stunning’) precede desserts such as pistachio soufflé with warm chocolate sauce and passion fruit granité. The 19-page wine list features particularly well-chosen growers and is impressive in its scope, with a strong Italian section. However prices and mark-ups are high, with £23 the starting point for an Umbrian white.

The Good Food Guide 2011

Angela Hartnett MBE – the UK's most publicised female chef and Gordon Ramsay sidekick – has re-established her restaurant profile at this slick Mayfair destination and is wowing the crowds once again. Given that Murano is named after the super-chic Venetian glassware, you might expect a certain suave exclusivity in the dining room – and that's exactly what it offers: arty frescoed panels, elaborate sculpted chandeliers and, of course, Murano hand-blown light fittings add extra gloss to the handsomely dignified surroundings. Angela Hartnett's affection for Mediterranean flavours and her nose for brilliant seasonal ingredients yield some fabulous results and startling marriages: caramelised veal sweetbreads are teamed with pickled quince, dandelion salad, honey and mustard dressing, while Scottish scallops appear alongside apple and cucumber salsa, pata negra ham, pumpkin purée and candied walnuts. Pasta is always a strong suit (perhaps braised rabbit pappardelle with confit lemons, black olive, mint and rocket), but other ideas show more imagination – hence the presence of anchovy tempura and grapefruit vinaigrette with a dish of braised halibut, capers and crosnes or roast Ibérico pork shoulder with pearl barley and salsify. Meals open with terrific breads, charcuterie nibbles and arancini balls, while a dozen miniature sorbets provide the prelude to exciting desserts such as chestnut moelleux with nashi pears and dry sherry ice cream. Excellent-value set lunches have also delivered first-class cooking in the form of deep-fried lamb's tongues with pearl barley ragù and salsa verde, duck egg on a salad of duck confit with wet polenta, and zingy orange tart. Faultless, on-the-ball service receives glowing praise, as does the auspicious Italian-accented wine list (despite some steep mark-ups). Prices start at £23.50 (£8 a glass).

The Good Food Guide 2012

Angela Hartnett’s star is waxing ever more strongly since she bought herself out of the Gordon Ramsay stable and made herself the sole owner of Murano, an elegant, über-cool room done out in neutral colours, with carefully judged lighting and well-spaced tables. Copious praise continues to pour in from readers, whether singling out generous pre-nibbles of deep-fried arancini balls and charcuterie, the excellent bread or simply expressing delight with service that is as ‘attentive and friendly as ever’. The cooking has its roots in regional Italian cuisine, but also shows a broader affection for Mediterranean flavours, fabulous seasonal ingredients and modern ideas. The kitchen sends out perfectly ripe San Marzano tomatoes well-matched by smoked ricotta and black olive powder, or a perfect raviolo stuffed with breast and confit of quail, served with a delicate sauce lifted by orange zest (pronounced ‘lovely’). This confidence is matched by the thoughtfulness of assemblies – for one reporter a ‘mouthwatering’ chicken with citrus and garlic ‘worked a treat’. Timings are generally careful, and dishes have an inherent simplicity and coherence which gives them a timeless feel: a perfectly cooked piece of halibut, for example, served with delicate gnocchi, sticky glazed chicken wings, white asparagus and hazelnut velouté. Fine judgement is applied to desserts, which can achieve a simplicity that belies the effort that created them – a textbook apricot and biscotti soufflé served with Amaretto anglaise, say. With all the incidentals (appetisers, pre-dessert of exquisitely flavoured mini-sorbets, petits fours and so forth), you will leave Murano having gone through a lot of food – yet the lightness of touch is such that you aren’t likely to feel outfaced. And it's worth noting that these incidentals arrive with the excellent-value set lunch, too – making it one of London’s bargains. The 27-page wine list explores Italy, France and the Iberian Peninsula in detail, but mark-ups are high. Drink by the glass from £5.50.

The Good Food Guide 2015

Angela Hartnett’s flagship is part of a growing family that now includes a ‘little sister’, Café Murano in St James (see entry). One side effect of this might be to make Murano, with its neat frontage and tastefully pale interior, seem stiff or dull by comparison. Yes, the airy plushness of the dining room is tailor-made for Mayfair, but readers report that the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly – even a little excitable. Hartnett’s reputation for flawless, fine-tuned cooking will do that to a room, or perhaps it’s the thrill of having carte blanche to choose anything between two and five courses from a ‘flexible’ menu that’s strongly but not slavishly Italian. Delicate ingredients like sweetbreads, served with apple and walnuts, or turbot paired with purple sprouting and almond purée do especially well here. There’s a hint of woodsy comfort in baked potato gnocchi with fontina, wild mushrooms and speck, while venison loin with a matching shepherd’s pie is ‘the star of a very impressive show’. Desserts embrace the classic: try Amalfi lemon tart or pear and chocolate mousse with hazelnut praline and pear sorbet. The three-course lunch at £30 is a good entry point. Marc-Andréa Lévy’s wine list makes for good reading on Italy and the French regions. It starts at an accessible £20, or £4.50 by the glass – but it goes up.

The Good Food Guide 2016

Angela Hartnett has been pretty busy of late, expanding her casual Café Murano brand (see entry) and making her presence felt as far away as Hampshire (see Hartnett Holder & Co), but this plush Mayfair venue remains her flagship - and a mighty impressive one too. Given that Murano is named after a super-chic brand of Venetian glassware, it's no surprise that suave exclusivity is the theme with elegantly sculpted chandeliers, frescoed panels and mirrors adding a certain gravitas to proceedings. But there are thrills, excitement and panache on the plate as Hartnett's kitchen delivers a highly distinguished and open-minded take on contemporary Italian cuisine. Lunch promises commendable value for W1, while seasonal dinner menus offer the chance to work your way through up to five stellar courses: charred mackerel with clams, grapes, lemon and ginger; wet polenta with kale, Taleggio and trompette mushrooms; côte de veau with sage, cavolo nero and name but three. Homemade pasta is also a must (perhaps beef anolini with broth, black truffle and Parmesan), while desserts often reprise the classics - blood-orange cake with chocolate cream and bitter chocolate sorbet, for example. Despite some steep mark-ups, there is quality across the board on the auspicious and international wine list; prices start at £2

The Good Food Guide 2017

Every penny was worth it,' says a reader of a joyful, wine-matched celebration at Angela Hartnett's mother ship. You'll know you're in Mayfair – big floristry, tasteful murals and luxe finishes – but the room is light and easy, and service responds smoothly to the mood at the table. Hartnett's style is Italia finessed, with its generosity and freshness kept intact, and chef Pip Lacey ensures that continuing quality 'could not be better'. From five courses (the set lunch is three), pick and choose delicate first courses, perhaps scallop ceviche with pink grapefruit, mooli and a touch of dark chocolate, and exemplary pasta; little parcels are a speciality, so try crab tortellini and bisque with cucumber, turnip and spring onion. Readers rate 'light, delicate and flavoursome' duck confit cannelloni, and 'very fresh' pollack with trompette mushrooms, black truffle and hazelnuts. At the meatier end, rack of lamb is served for two with artichoke, rhubarb and red onion. Desserts play on established partnerships, as in pistachio soufflé with hot chocolate sauce, as well as introducing star anise and fennel to a caramelised blood-orange tart (a seasonal variation on Hartnett's Amalfi lemon number) or tarragon to chocolate mousse. A deftly handled wine list is opening up to the New World but offers more choice closer to home, from £28.     

The Good Food Guide 2018

Neither formal nor stuffy, Angela Hartnett’s flagship restaurant caters for a well-heeled rather than hip crowd and, as such, the décor is muted, not attention grabbing. As for the menu – it’s complicated. A spin on the classic Italian multi-course offering sees dishes divided into five savoury and one dessert section and diners not only choose which dishes to have, but also how many courses, what size and in what order they are served. While some have found this ‘a really fun way of doing things’, one reporter noted that ‘the young birthday couple next to us really began to fall out after 20 minutes of back-and-forth thinking’. Thankfully, olives, breads, grissini, olive oil and San Daniele ham are placed on the table ‘which kept us on track’. Hartnett’s cooking has always relied on top ingredients and meticulous craftsmanship. Indeed, a ‘beautiful’ dish of cured sea bream with kohlrabi, capers, pear and rosemary purée, and the ‘wonderful’ paper-thin manzo di pozza, served with homemade ricotta, spiced broad beans, spring onion and hazelnut set the tone at an early spring meal. Impressive, too, were button-sized parcels of silky chestnut anolini in a clear, deep-flavoured mushroom consommé topped with a few sprout tops, and monkfish with roasted squash, tempura broccoli and beurre blanc. A ‘perfect, barely set, wonderfully wobbly’ little pannacotta with oat and macadamia clusters and brown-bread ice cream, or poached Yorkshire rhubarb ‘layered up with piped ginger-wine syllabub and some fine crumbs of Cornish fairings’ are winning finales. The set lunch continues to offer very good value for the location. However, while the global wine list may teem with quality, with few bottles under £50, prices are wallet denting.