Fear not. Café Murano may be a classy Italian in a classy part of town but nobody need stand on ceremony here. It’s understated, elegant and, above all, delicious but not pretentious with knowledgeable but approachable staff. A winning combination.
Historically I’ve made some mistakes picking restaurants. Famously my family expect overly poncy, needlessly experimental food served up in portions that my parents need to don glasses to see. I was determined this time when booking for my mum and I not to make that kind of mistake again. Luckily Café Murano, baby sister to Angela Hartnett’s Michelin-starred Murano, delivered in spades.
It would be easy to go overboard here. Can’t decide what to order, pick a cicheti to share while you wait, or opt for antipasti before your primi then save room for secondi and not to mention dolce…
Looking down the menu, even the most clued in foodie might come a little stuck with an Italian term or two. Since it doesn’t come with a dictionary, it’s fortunate that the waiters really do know the menu and swoop in before the puzzled expression has had chance to spread across your face. It always sings out loud and clear when the service staff have tasted the dishes and are confident about the make up of the menu. You feel in good hands then should you ask for recommendations. I might add that our shmoozy Italian waiter, while dancing the fine line between attentive and intrusive certainly did provide that extra not towards authenticity. His favourite dish as a child? He’ll tell you. What’s gnudi? He’ll translate for you.
Gnudi, it turns out are dough blended with fresh ricotta and pecorino Romano cheese and then boiled. Gnocci fans, give them a whirl. My mum was besotted. Served up with San Marzano tomatoes, spinach and ricotta salata, these soft little dumplings were little creamy ricotta clouds.
My starter on the other hand had it’s feet firmly on the ground, or maybe more appropriate to say the forest floor. Just as light but fabulously earthy and delicate, the mushroom and wild garlic tortelli with pine nuts and sage was a delight. I could have demolished the larger portion, and maybe should have in hindsight, as my main wasn’t quite as magnificent.
The cod was beautifully cooked and had a truly delicious fried crust to the top but the lentils beneath were underwhelming. Possibly the problem was the pancetta promised on the menu appeared to be absent which left the dish lacking salt and a bit of umph. Lentils I find need tarting up to be special and these were a little lifeless.
The sausage ragu with radiccio and hazelnuts on the other side of the table went down a storm however (the Italian waiter only allowed two pasta dishes in succession since he was such a fan of the gnudi). I did sneak a taste towards the end and it was excellent.
Dessert is always high on the agenda when my mum and I are dining together, the sweet tooth is seriously strong in my family. I’m told the vanilla panna cotta with rhubarb was delicious (not a taste left to be had). My apple torta was average, maybe too thick on the crust but the Marsala ice cream stole the show; not too sweet and luscious gelato textured.
The icing on the cake was the little pistachio and hazelnut torrone that accompanied some topnotch coffee. She may not appreciate me sharing this, but my mum enjoyed it so much she ordered a second just for the torrone!