Nestled in the heart of bustling Convent Garden, sits Clos Maggiore, being recently voted Londonís most 'romantic' restaurant by Harden's Guide 2013. In a capital city such as this, thatís not an easy accolade to scoop. Yes, there are plenty of luxurious eateries vying for visitorsí attention, proffering five-star gourmet cuisine, but the word romantic is subjective; one manís rose is anotherís tacky display of affection.
So as my husband and I step inside, Iím intrigued to find out what makes Clos Maggiore stand out. Our friendly but formal waiter shows us to our table through the main restaurant. Plush wooden tables are set inside a dimly lit, cozy area with art draped across the well-dressed walls, and the small dining area at the rear. And itís here that the penny drops. In terms of setting, Clos Maggiore has created an oasis of calm inside a conservatory interior with a retractable roof for when the sun is shining.
Itís intimate with only about seven tables in an indoor space designed like an alfresco experience. The room is dripping with soft, white cherry blossom, lush, green foliage and glittering fairy lights creating a magical ambiance. Itís incongruous, as though I could be miles away, dining at an inn in Provence or Tuscany rather than in London on a dark rainy night. And thereís also a huge open log fire flickering away in the middle of the room, kicking out waves of warmth.
Itís the six-course (including cheese) ŗ la carte tasting menu that weíre here to try. My husbandís the meat eater and I opt for the vegetarian menu. Each course of French cuisine is paired with a suitable wine, courtesy of the expert sommelier, from a wine list that makes War & Peace look slender. The menu walks us through a delectable dining experience.
My Roasted Chestnut Mushroom & Madeira Soup is full of flavor, served with a melt-in-your-mouth Truffle Brioche & Parmesan Croque Monsieur. Coupled with the rich saltiness of the soup, itís the most exquisite cheese-toastie Iíve ever tasted. While across the table, Rich is diving into a sublime Chicken Liver & Foie Gras Parfait accompanied by a fruity marmalade and toasted brioche. Served with chargrilled spring onion, tender-stem broccoli and toasted almonds, the pastry of my Pecorino Cheese & Thyme Flower Feuilletť flakes away perfectly as I cut into the cheese oozing in the middle.
However, my favorite dish of the evening is the chunky, slippery, hand-rolled fresh Pappardelle covered in a sticky parmesan and seasonal wild mushroom sauce. This washed down nicely with a glass of Bodegas Ondarre Reserva 2007, Rioja. My husband's favorite is the tender Honey Glazed Breast of Goosnargh Duck which is served with succulent roasted red plums, endive MeuniŤre and a rich Ruby Port sauce. The evening is rounded off with a beautiful selection of six cheeses from around the world ó every day will be different but served with hand-baked biscuits and quince jelly.
The menu is thanks to Marcellin Marc, head chef at Clos Maggiore. ďMy food philosophy is very simple: always buy excellent quality ingredients and cook them well. I spend a great deal of time sourcing the best ingredients possible and always try to use small, independent producers,Ē said Chef Marc. ďOne dish which always remains on the menu is the braised shoulder of Loire Valley Rabbit. We took it off once but our regulars weren't too happy! One of my favorite dishes is the slow cooked cod ó it's very tasty, not too rich or heavy as it doesn't have much cream or butter, just olive oil and herbs so it's very flavorsome.Ē
Itís a philosophy that undoubtedly works, offering a unique menu of inspirational dishes in a setting unlike any other in London. And thatís why the diners keep going back for more.