Deluxe Italian cuisine has a new London home: Covent Garden’s Margot.
One of winter 2016’s most hyped openings, Margot arrived oozing affluence in spades. Discreetly located on Great Queen Street, the restaurant has the same twinkling luxury of similar upmarket Italians Cecconi’s and Daphne’s. It’s all dim lighting, white linens, deep buttoned leather banquettes, and contemporary art (I spotted some of Damien Hirst’s butterflies). A casual neighbourhood Italian this is not.
The restaurant is split onto two floors. Both are intimately sized and both feature bars. Upstairs the barmen wear white dinner jackets and bow ties, and spar lightly with those sitting on the plush bar stools. It’s a pretty glamorous spot to imbibe at, and the crowd here is moneyed and stylish. But Margot supports all its glitz with substance. I found the cooking to be excellent.
The restaurant was conceived by Paulo de Tarso and Nicholas Jaouen. Jaouen was previously general manager at Balthazar, while de Tarso was maitre d’ at Bar Boulud, The Wolseley, and Scott’s. A superb pedigree by any standards. The two enlisted Chef Maurizio Morelli in the kitchen, who has created a menu that moves from cicchetti and tartares through to pasta, salads, meat, and fish.
Various items on the menu have sparked debate, a steak tartare with scrambled eggs for example. With some cowardice we opted to play it safe and instead began with Vitello Tonnato and tuna tartare. Perfectly tender veal sat on a generous pool of subtly flavoured tuna cream sauce. The dish lacked any fishy pong some associate with poor incarnations of the classic Italian starter. Tuna tartare was butter soft and gently sweetened with an odd sounding but ultimately inoffensive addition of candied orange.
Morelli is an accomplished pasta chef and his creations for Margot don’t let down. We tried the house signature fish ravioli and a hare ragu tagliatelle. Four pieces of ravioli lay across the plate ascending by the strength of their filling, each individually coloured with squid ink, basil, tomato etc. Drowned in butter, it was almost overwhelming in its indulgence. The moreish tagliatelle was saturated in unctuous sauce with melt-in-the-mouth chunks of hare. Not a restaurant at which to skip the pasta course, both dishes were more than worth their meagre twelve pounds.
Main courses counted a number of fish and meat dishes, including an appetising pancetta wrapped monkfish and suckling pork belly with plums. There was no distracting us from the Ossobuco di vitello though. Gorgeously soft, fall apart veal came on a bed of pleasingly al dente saffron risotto. To finish, a cold rum baba with tangerine cream and orange sauce. Moist, not too sweet, and as refreshing as a cake doused in rum can be.
Margot was made for romantic tête-à-têtes and intimate groups of friends. The fact you’ll be out of place in a slogan band t-shirt and trainers is no bad thing in my book.
45 Great Queen St, London. WC2B 5AA.