Harden's survey result
“Perhaps hopes were too high?” – Angela Hartnett’s spin-off Italians in Covent Garden and St James’s inspire a lot of feedback, but much of it is mixed. Fans do applaud her for “succeeding where most others fail in establishing a couple of cheaper ventures that follow her style, but do not feel part of a factory-made chain; and which provide some excellent, simple Italian cooking and carefully chosen wines”. But for many sceptics, the gloss is taken off the experience either by “food that’s fine but not exceptional; not-wholly-interested service; or a lack of ambience” (WC2 can be “very noisy”). She must be doing something right however, as in June 2019 she submitted plans to take over the Bermondsey site some will recall as Zucca (RIP) to become her next outlet. Top Tip – “a useful stop pre-theatre but the set menu never seems to meet expectations, so it’s better to stick with the à la carte”.
“For a handy pre-theatre option, light lunch or mid-afternoon snack; meeting someone for a coffee or glass of bubbles; or for an informal, relaxed business rendezvous”, Angela Hartnett’s massively popular “relatively casual” spin-offs provide conveniently located venues, which – at their best – deliver a “lovely, regional Italian menu” and “a well-priced, exclusively Italian wine list” in a “pleasantly vibrant” atmosphere. Ratings dipped this year though, with increasing gripes about food that’s “decent but lacking that extra sparkle”, or decor that’s “slightly cramped and nothing special”. Higher marks though for the “charming and engaging service”.
“Proper decent Italian food without needless bells and whistles – just as you’d expect from Angela Hartnett, plus some surprisingly good (and well-priced) wines” help win a huge fan club for her “more relaxed” Theatreland and St James’s outposts, especially amongst business-lunchers who like their “reliable and low-key” style. The cooking “lacks the magic of the Murano mothership” however, and the “welcoming” staff can be off the case.
“Straightforward cooking, with a twist beyond the staple dishes” and “professional” service – all “without the mothership’s high prices” – win high popularity for Angela Hartnett’s spin-offs in St James’s and Covent Garden. Some reports are sceptical though: “sure the food’s fine, but mainstream, and do we need another star chef’s standard West End option where the biggest excitement is their name?”
Last orders: 10 pm