Billed as ‘the world’s most romantic restaurant’, Clos Maggiore in Covent Garden has been on my bucket list for a while now. Let’s not pretend its main appeal is anything other than the spectacular downstairs conservatory, where low-hanging branches and blossoms encroach on diners like some kind of fairyland forest as they sample Provençal fare.
Sadly, there are a limited number of tables and covers downstairs which require booking months in advance, so as a last-minute birthday treat, I hopped on one of upstairs tables in the charming, wood-panelled private dining room, complete with log fireplace and contemporary line drawings, paying the obligatory visit to the conservatory to marvel in its beauty.
Crafted by Head Chef Marcellin Marc, the Spring tasting menu is nothing short of understated, flavourful, non-pretentious and delightful. For my five-course tasting menu, I enjoyed:
Hand Picked Dorset Crab
Smoked Anchovy Mayonnaise
Pan Roasted Les Landes Duck Liver
Macerated Green Apple & Fresh Mango,
Fine French Bean Salad, Toasted Hazelnut Bread
Pan Roasted Organic Irish Sea Trout
Hot Smoked Salmon, Leek & Garden Herb Pancake
Lasagne, Mussel & Dill Velouté
Oven Roasted & ‘Herb Smoked’ Ibérico Pork Loin
King Edward Potato, Bone Marrow & Almond Croquette,
Apple & Calvados Sauce
Blackcurrant Sorbet ‘Kir Royal’
Since there was a lot of fish and I’m not the biggest fan of white wine, so in my unrefined heathenism, I opted against the wine pairing menu, and instead was delighted by a host of cocktails that were made on demand to match my required taste (punchy; not too sweet).
The highlight was undoubtably the trout lasagne. An odd pairing, but the sweetness of the mussels, the creamy richness of the sauce and the delicacy of the fish somehow worked. The toasted hazelnut bread with the duck liver spread all over it felt naughty and decadent, but totally worth it. Yep, I wasn’t dairy free for this meal!
Unlike so many other French restaurants in the UK, Clos Maggiore’s charm is in not being too French. All ingredients are sources locally and ethically, and there’s not a ‘French theme’ throughout the food; rather, there’s a whimsical play on classic French elements, firmly grounded in Britain. The whimsy carries throughout the restaurant, with statues of flying pigs and of course, the undeniably lavish organic conservatory ceiling.
It’s in Central London, so it ain’t the cheapest, but still for the delights I sampled, I found it to be worth the money, if only for the unforgettable birthday party it gave my palate.