OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAClos Maggiore is reputed to be one of the most romantic restaurants in London, and the origin of this reputation is clear from the moment you enter: what loved-up couple wouldn’t want to eat beneath skylights and fairy light-entwined flower bowers, with a roaring log fire in the background?

Luckily, the food matches expectations too. At an affordable £22.50 a head, the prix fixe menu consists of three courses during a weekend lunchtime service, and impressions are good from the beginning. The Scottish crab mayonnaise with celeriac remoulade is light and refreshing, while the confit goose, Serrano ham and cranberry ballotine served with toasted sourdough keeps up the festive theme even in January – a good call when everyone is feeling miserable after all the Christmas decorations have been taken down (although those watching their waistlines may prefer the crab).

The starters were perhaps a little more enjoyable than the mains, although only fractionally so. The veal belly went down well, and the guinea fowl was so tender that you could practically cut it with a spoon. The latter came with the smoothest mash on the planet and smoked bacon, as well as a rich red wine sauce. Side orders are perhaps unnecessary, but if you would like one, we can vouch for the spinach, which is fresh and not at all stringy, and of which one portion served two people comfortably. All of this was chased down with a glass each of an excellent red wine from Puglia, which comes from Clos Maggiore’s well-stocked wine cellar.

By this point, the small restaurant was virtually full. Even though there appear to be many people eating inside it, this is achieved only by the clever use of mirrors – in reality, there are no more than 40 covers or so. Having tried to book a month in advance before Christmas and been unable to get in, further difficulties were experienced when attempting to book for dinner. This is clearly a popular haunt and booking in advance is without doubt necessary (with lunch being easier to get a table for).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPortions are generous, so cheese is definitely an optional extra. Dessert could be described as traditional with a twist, with the menu featuring Calvados pain perdu, and pear crumble with cottage cheese ice cream. The latter was full of contrast thanks to the crunchy topping, the soft fruit, the sweet sugar and spices and the tangy cottage cheese. However, on the whole both desserts leaned more towards the homey than the refined. This was greatly compensated for by the excellent sweet wine from Veneto that accompanied it, and by the high-quality coffee that followed (which was better, ironically, than the coffee served at Gauthier Soho, which costs twice as much). The petits fours were also a naughty but nice bonus thanks to the combination of chocolate, walnut and orange.

At around £80 for two people for Sunday lunch (including wine, coffee and service), this makes you feel like you’ve had a treat without breaking the bank. While Clos Maggiore, despite its name, lacks a clear Italian identity beyond a few token wines and one pasta dish on the menu, the food is indulgent without being overpriced, and with its prime location just off Covent Garden, definitely comes recommended for anyone visiting London.

33 King Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 8JD

www.closmaggiore.com

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