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Harden's survey result
“I saw a guy go down on bended knee to his girlfriend… she said yes!” This “luxurious and magical” haven – somewhat unexpectedly located “in the heart of Covent Garden” – continues to “live up to its reputation as the most romantic restaurant in London”, and “for a meal with that special someone, you won’t find much better”, especially if you can bag a table (book months in advance) for the “blossom-festooned conservatory” (which some reporters feel is essential to a successful visit; to others it’s merely “the icing on the cake”). Unusually for somewhere “oozing romance”, standards elsewhere “are not compromised to deliver a memorable experience”: “the food might not be the absolute pinnacle of modern British cuisine”, but “it’s more-than-competent” and “the star gourmet attraction is a wine list of almost biblical proportions”. Top Tip – “lunch/pre theatre set menus offer superb value for the excellent quality”.
“Deserving its accolade as London’s most romantic restaurant” – this “special and luxuriant” venue is an unexpected haven of “peace and tranquility”, despite being bang smack in the centre of touristy Covent Garden, and “just has that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ to create vibes with your significant other”. “Try to get a table in the extraordinary conservatory” (“where the glass roof opens on summer days and a warming fire is lit in the winter”) as “that is how the magic happens” but NB – “it needs to be booked many months in advance”. The numerous other sections can be “memorable” and “cosseting” too, but there’s no hiding the fact that they do play second fiddle to the “headline event”. Given the emphasis on atmosphere, the surprise here has always been the high standards generally: the “professional” service, “classic and well-presented” French-inspired cuisine and the “immense wine list (you could get lost in it, look up, and find your partner gone!)”. But the formerly high proportion of reports of seriously good cooking here fell off sharply this year, and a few regulars have concerns: “Once I’d have overlooked a decidedly average meal here, but two similar experiences have left me wondering: is it starting to live off a great room and stellar reputation?”
“You feel that love is in the air!” at this “very special” destination (yet again the survey’s No. 1 choice for a romantic occasion), especially in “the inner sanctum” – “the lovely glass-roofed courtyard at the back, hung with blossom, a roof that opens in fine weather, and with an open fire for chilly nights”. “Amidst the dross of Covent Garden”, not only is it “an oasis of calm”, but staff are “charming” and “professional”, the French-inspired cuisine is “very enjoyable” and the “daunting” wine bible – one of London’s most extensive lists – is “really something else”. “Securing one of the courtyard seats is a challenge”, but “the experience in the somewhat blander upstairs is still memorable”.
“A man on the next table got on one knee and proposed… she said yes!” This “joyful oasis” remains London’s No. 1 romantic destination thanks to its “magical” interior – in particular its “extraordinarily pretty” rear conservatory. A “well-oiled, very professional operation”, “the food quality is high for Covent Garden too, but gastronomically speaking it’s the enormous wine list that really sings” (“allow an hour to digest it fully!”)
|Wine per bottle||£30.00|
Clos Maggiore WC2
How's your Valentine's booking coming along? One excellent choice - though for next year I'm afraid, given that it was fully booked by the end of January - is the subject of today's review.
From the outside, Maggiore's gives every impression of wanting to 'fit in' alongside the mass-market outlets of Covent Garden. By looking like any other pleasant enough tourist trap, it seems largely to have escaped serious critical consideration. The Good Food Guide omits it. Michelin does find a place for it, but their inspectors - in spite of their supposed eye for detail - somehow fail to comment on its truly remarkable secret: a wine selection over 2000 bins strong.
The presentation of said list is baffling (even for the relatively initiated), but those who really care about these things - the US magazine Wine Spectator for instance - have fêted the selection here with a rarely-bestowed clutch of awards.
The interior of the restaurant is another shock. In particular, the rear room - decorated with greenery, a glazed roof and a baronial-style fireplace - is as pretty a dining space as you will find in London. In terms of obvious romantic appeal, it's a knock out. (Perhaps in 35 years time it too will be a 'classic' like La Poule au Pot, reviewed yesterday). Service is very charming too,
If there is a reservation about this place - and sadly, there is - it's about the food. That's not to say that there's anything wrong with the cooking, but rather that it can sometimes live up (or rather down) to the simplicity of its menu descriptions. If you choose that great and rare bottle, the food is unlikely to be its equal.
As a prelude to an evening at the Opera, however, the pre-theatre dinner here - with a well-chosen bottle of wine - would certainly be a hard act to follow.
33 King St, London, WC2E 8JD
lunch noon - 2.30 pm, dinner 5 pm - 10.30 pm, Sat 11 pm
Last orders: 11 pm, Sun 10 pm