The food was lovely, it was just a shame about everything else

<strong>MURANO</strong><br />20 QUEEN STREET,<br />LONDON, W1J 5PR<br />T: 020 7592 1222<br /><br /><strong><br />FOOD <br />SERVICE <br />ATMOSPHERE</strong> <br />Cost per person without wine: &pound;25 (set menu)<br /><br />WHEN Murano opened in 2008 it was greeted with trumpets and fanfare. It was the latest in Gordon Ramsay&rsquo;s empire, and the food was by Angela Hartnett, one of the few women at the top of the London restaurant game. The idea was to do really top-quality Italian nosh, an elegant version of farmhouse cooking, in a fabulous Mayfair restaurant setting. The place was given a Michelin star when it had been open just about six months.<br /><br />But there was something peculiar about Murano when we went for lunch last week. Partly it was the atmosphere. There was none of the rush and bustle that is so exciting about flashy restaurants. There were a few Asian tourists and a handful of expensive-looking oldies. There was not a lot of buzz. Some of the customers looked as if their doctors might have warned them to avoid buzz at all costs. I got the feeling that people go to Murano to settle in for the afternoon.<br /><br />To be fair, it&rsquo;s a pretty pleasant place for it. The decor is slick and grey, with a chandelier-cum-mobile which is just interesting enough to stop the place lapsing into Modern Business Boring. It&rsquo;s elegant, but it doesn&rsquo;t exactly scream &ldquo;character&rdquo;. <br /><br />We were expecting a bit more fizz from the food. We flicked quickly past the &pound;70 tasting menu and decided to go for value for money, with the lunch menu, &pound;25 for three courses. A pre-starter of cheesy, fried rice-balls set the tone for delicate flavours, and a plate of salami, parma ham and bread was a superb palate-tickler.<br /><br />For starters, two of us began with braised bunny with hand-rolled cavatelli and tomatoes. It was a little burst of perfection; the meat with a really deep flavour and the pasta was beautiful. The other starter was a &ldquo;flavoursome&rdquo; gazpacho <br /><br /><strong>BEASTS OF THE FIELD</strong><br />I stuck with beasts of the field for my main, a beautiful calves&rsquo; liver, with green beans and celeriac puree. Again, this was close to perfect. A piece of plump, pan-fried sea trout served with cucumber pappardelle, peas and girolles and parmesan veloute was judged excellent too. The only problem was with the roasted pork fillet, which was ordered by my carbophobic friend without the spuds. This request got lost somewhere and out it came, complete with Jersey royals. They were lovely (and much needed. My main, while perfectly formed, was also small), but she wasn&rsquo;t impressed.<br /><br />Then came the highlight, a couple of trays of beautiful little ice-creams, banana, chocolate-and-orange and others. They were a cracking palate-cleanser, especially the deep, earthy basil. Lovely.<br /><br />Despite the heavy pushing of the cheese trolley (more of this later) we decided to stay sweet with dessert, with the white chocolate and cardamom bavarois with mango and yoghurt foam. It was superb. I know that one of us should have gone for the other option in the interests of reviewing, but as it involved things being soaked in Pimms, we couldn&rsquo;t bring ourselves to.<br /><br />In short, then, the food was good. But back to that cheese. Now, we had all seen the cheese on the menu, for an &pound;8 supplement. It is there in black and white. If we had wanted cheese, we would have ordered it. Having the waitress practically beg us to have it was plain vulgar.<br /><br />And then there was the Coffee Incident. We ordered an espresso and a mint tea with our desserts. They never arrived. We asked again. Still nothing. Finally, I cancelled them. But they turned up on the bill. Now, mistakes are easy to make (although if you were with a client, pointing it out might be embarrassing), but what I can&rsquo;t forgive is that they would have cost a tenner. That&rsquo;s &pound;5 for an espresso, and &pound;5 for mint tea, ie a few leaves and some hot water. If these prices were on the menu, they were somewhere we didn&rsquo;t see them. Frankly, if you can&rsquo;t afford to do a cheap lunch without ripping off customers elsewhere, you just shouldn&rsquo;t bother with the set menu. Sad to say, I was left with the feeling that there is a grasping air to Murano, added to an amateurishness around the service. The cooking deserves better. <br /><br /><strong>In a nutshell:</strong> Fabulous Italian food from Angela Hartnett, let down by careless service, very expensive extras and a dull room.