At home food review: A taste of Italy in joyous food from Cafe Murano

Angela Hartnett MBE has a great pedigree of restaurants and now creates heat-at-home dishes with gusto, as Andy Richardson writes.

Burrata, blood orange and pickled tardivo
Burrata, blood orange and pickled tardivo

Soon, we will return to restaurants. From Bridgnorth to Birmingham, from Walsall to Wem, from Shrewsbury to Sandwell, we’ll be able to run the rule over the region’s finest curry houses and pizzerias, fine dining emporiums and street food shacks. And, yes, from time to time we will go native and visit a chip shop.

Until then, cue miniature violins, please, we have to content ourselves with at-home deliveries from the nation’s finest chefs.

It’s a dirty job, and all that, especially as there’s no kitchen porter to help with the washing up.

Necessity is the mother of invention and those in the hospitality trade have shown plenty of that. Overcoming challenges that in other times might have seemed insurmountable, they have entirely remodelled their businesses in order to stay afloat. Bravo.

Dealing with couriers whose methods are frequently uncertain, customers whose expectations are often too high, suppliers whose own businesses have been skewered by the big, bad Covid and competing in a crowded market where the chef from Wolverhampton is competing for the same slice of the pie as his peer from Warrington, the way we eat out (or, rather, the way we eat in) has fundamentally changed.

When restrictions ease and we return to restaurants, there’ll be a rush of pent-up demand as cabin-fever-struck couples, families and singles head for the nearest eaterie to remember what it is to be human.

Until then, it’s the knock on the door, the DPD delivery, the hope that instructions are accurate and the really-musn’t-grumble-post-dinner chore of the washing up.

Focaccia, olive oil, salumi, arancini

There are many reasons to be grateful, of course. Covid has temporarily changed the way we eat and given those of us based in the Midlands the opportunity to dine in all corners of the UK. With many local restaurants deciding not to offer take-away services or heat-at-home offerings, it’s become easier and easier to eat at some of the UK’s most garlanded restaurants without having to stick £50 worth of fuel in the car, without having to find a place to park in the centre of some far-flung city and without the tedium of a two-hour ride home that kills the happy mood created during a dinner at somewhere nice.

Angela Hartnett is a household name who received an MBE for her services to gastronomy. One of the UK’s most loved chefs and restaurateurs, she is best known for her sophisticated yet simple, Italy-inspired cooking.

Born in Britain, her passion for good, honest food and the best ingredients was instilled in her by her Italian grandmother and mother.

After starting out in the kitchens at Aubergine, Zafferano, L’Oranger and Petrus, Angela became head chef at Petrus, helping the restaurant to achieve a Michelin star.

She went on to launch Amaryllis in Scotland; Verre in Dubai; MENU and The Grill Room at The Connaught, with Gordon Ramsay.

Since 2008 Angela has opened and remains involved in critically acclaimed restaurants such as Michelin starred Murano in Mayfair, and Merchants Tavern in Shoreditch.

In 2013 she opened the similarly championed Cafe Murano, a brassier little sister to Murano, where she creates the menu with Sam Williams as Head Chef.

In June 2015 a second Cafe Murano opened on Tavistock Street, Covent Garden, and in 2019 she was opening a third site in Bermondsey.

Beef ragout and potato gnocchi with a toasted rosemary crumb

She moved quickly into the heat at home market.

Every month Angela designs a sophisticatedly simple menu of classic Italian dishes for our Cafe Murano at home menu box.

The boxes offer four courses of Cafe Murano classic dishes delivered nationwide every Friday.

A recent menu featured focaccia, olive oil and arancini; burrata, blood orange and pickled tardivo; secondo of beef ragout, potato gnocchi with a toasted rosemary crumb; rounded off with lemon posset poached rhubarb and shortbread biscuits.

The boxes provide a generous serving for two people. The menu is delivered pre-prepared, cold in an insulated box.

Hartnett’s food is thrilling. A triumph of substance over style, it’s all about really good, simple, tasty food.

Pasta is a big deal to the Murano team, who make most of theirs by hand, at least twice a day in each restaurant.

Flour and eggs are key. For handmade pasta, they use the best ‘00’ Gran Mugnaio pasta flour available. Eggs are also specially sourced from Fluffets Farm in the New Forest.

Lemon posset, poached rhubarb and shortbread

There are more than 300 shapes of pasta, and the stories behind them show a fascinating history.

The quality of other ingredients is also a step-ahead. The philosophy couldn’t be simpler, nor more endearing.

Get great ingredients, treat them with respect and let the food talk for itself.

And in the case of our heat at home box, that’s precisely what it did.

The focaccia light, olive oil aromatic and ever-so-slightly bitter while the arancini were delicate and gone in an instant.

One of the key challenges of chef boxes is finding ingredients that travel well; arancini are a little problematic, in that they taste appreciably better when they’ve just popped out of the fryer and are still crisp and hot.

There were no such issues with a brilliant starter, featuring exemplary produce.

Staying in is the new going out

Creamy burrata – one of Italy’s greatest cheeses – was paired with sharp and sweet blood orange and a bitter tardivo, which had been pickled.

The creaminess of the burrata was a perfect counterpoint to the sweet orange and lightly acidulated tardive. Magnificent.

The main course of beef ragout with light, fluffy potato gnocchi and a toasted rosemary crumb was similarly accomplished. A harmonious marriage of flavours, the robust flavours of the beef, punchy aromatic of the rosemary crumb and light gnocchi made for satisfying eating.

Dinner finished with a splendid creamy and sharp lemon posset with poached rhubarb and buttery, sweet shortbread biscuits.

It was an example of excellence; if there’s a chef making a better lemon posset in Britain than Angela Hartnett, could someone please point me to their dessert trolley right now?

Dine at home boxes may well be here to stay, long after lockdown ends.

Hartnett’s provides a taste of Italy with joyous, comforting food.

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