A Fine Romance
Clos Maggiore is supposedly London’s most romantic restaurant. Indeed, the intimate conservatory area is very pretty, bedecked with sprigs of silk apple blossoms and countless twinkling fairy lights, a huge sandstone fireplace and mirrored large arches on three walls reflecting the whole glory of it all. The other areas of this restaurant, just off the Piazza in Covent Garden, are less spectacular and more reminiscent of a country pub, so, if you go, it’s essential to book a table in the conservatory to get the full impact of all that sweet romance. Don’t be surprised if you have to book months in advance, Clos Maggiore is tiny weeny and very popular.
The Lovely Husband and I had a wedding anniversary to celebrate and since the LH is a very thoughtful person, he’d booked us in here way back in February. Frankly, getting from where we live in Barnes to Covent Garden on a warm Thursday evening in late spring might be enough to test any marriage. London traffic was more snarled up than usual, forcing us to follow several diversions, returning us to the same spot in the process, and keeping us stationary for what seemed like forever. And then the parking in Covent Garden, never an easy thing….. “Why didn’t you take the tube?’ I hear you ask. Are you joking? What, in my glad rags and with four inch stilettos? I don’t think so! Wash your mouth out with soap!
So, finally we arrive at Clos Maggiore, a funny French Italian name meaning, as far as I can tell, big enclosure. Clearly that was someone’s idea of a joke because nothing about this place is big. You enter a dark, narrow and almost dingy hallway which doubles as the reception area. Once the receptionist has established that you do in fact have a booking, a strange shuffling dance takes place to allow her to lead the way into the actual restaurant, where you pass through two minute rooms with a few white linen clad tables, before you enter the small conservatory, where a further eight tables for either two or four diners beckon. The lights are low, the linen is starched, the glassware sparkles and the menu looks good. Oooh, and here comes our celebratory champagne!
Clos Maggiore prides itself on its strictly local product sourcing from small UK producers. The fish comes directly from the boats rather than via the markets, the lamb from a particular farm in the Welsh mountains, the game exclusively from Windsor Royal Park and the poultry from a family-run farm in Lancashire. Fruit and veg are freshly picked in Kent and delivered to the restaurant every morning, so all the ingredients are dew fresh. Chef Marcellin Marc offers all this up either as part of a five course tasting menu for £65 or on the à la carte menu. The wine list is long, its contents equally well chosen.
Quite unusually, we each chose a starter, rather than sharing one. I feel like something light and fresh, so my eye is on the Fresh Burrata from Puglia and Marinated Heritage Beetroot with Pink Grapefruit and Smoked Catalan Almonds in Extra Virgin Olive Oil. (So much for the local sourcing!) It looks very attractive and tastes absolutely yum.
The Lovely Husband fancies the San Marzano Gazpacho ‘Andalouse’ and Scottish Langoustines with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Fresh Basil. This too makes the taste buds sing out joyfully in its summeryness.
Then, after an appropriate pause, come our main courses. The Lovely Husband has again bucked the trend by going for the more autumnal Pan Roasted Farmed Rabbit Fillet with Spinach and Gorgonzola Lasagna, English Asparagus and Rabbit Jus. Goodness, how Masterchefy does that sound? I’m told that it is quite delicious, the meat tender and perfectly cooked, with some sort of very tasty ingredient rolled into the middle, the pancake thin ‘lasagna’ intense and rich and the asparagus fresh and crunchy by contrast. He’s a happy man.
My Pan Roasted Organic Irish Sea Trout with Gratinated Hot Smoked Salmon, Leek and Garden Herb Pancake in a Mussel and Dill Velouté is also excellent and also very rich. Much as I am enjoying it, and as good as the velvety velouté is, I think a lighter, simpler grilled trout with a squirt of lemon juice might have been that little bit more to my liking. The pleasantly mushy slice of leek and herb pancake together with the gratinated hot smoked salmon further give the dish weight, gravitas and interest, for sure, but for me, it is, in combination, all almost a little too weighty and I can’t quite finish the last third of it. Luckily, the Lovely Husband can. Waste not, want not!
Strangely, when it comes to choosing pud, I’m right back in the saddle. Would I miss out on a sweet treat? Never! But this time, we do, at least, share our Greek Yoghurt and Lemon Zest Mousse, Yuzu Curd and Honey Comb with Lime and Almond Sponge and Blackcurrant Sorbet and yes, it is quite as lovely as it sounds, refreshing, tart yet creamy yet spongey and all sorts of other good taste sensations all at once. Where the main courses were really very generous, our dessert is more moderate. Just as well, because hey, what’s this alongside our coffee? A lovely slate of six ultra dainty petit fours! Well, Merci Beaucoup, Clos Maggiore, or should that be Grazie Molto or even Merci Molto?
Our bill comes to £171.79 including two glasses of champagne, a bottle of wine, a side portion of spinach, coffee and 12.5% discretionary gratuity.
I liked Clos Maggiore and had a wonderful time there. The service was possibly some of the best I have ever experienced and the food was extremely good, although for me personally, overall a little too fancy. And yes, it was kind of romantic, not perhaps as romantic as Petersham Nurseries in Petersham on London’s border with Surrey, where you are surrounded by real blooms, but which is mostly open only for lunch, and certainly no more romantic than the conservatory at Megan’s in Fulham, which is very much simpler but also very much cheaper, but it’s definitely in the romantic senior league.
Clos Maggiore also have a private room for hire which looks very nice indeed.
What I wore
One piece full skirted cotton and silk taffeta Sara Roka dress, 3/4 length sleeves: shirt top pale pink, skirt mid blue, sash purple, purple patent Manolo Blahnik Mary Janes, purple velvet LK Bennett clutch.
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