Clos Maggiore: Mostly magical Maggiore (September 2015)

It is a bold claim for any restaurant to make suggesting that it provides an ‘unforgettable dining experience’, and all the more so if you have also been voted London’s ‘most romantic’ restaurant. Such is the standard that Clos Maggiore is forced to live up to. My comrade and I certainly thoroughly enjoyed a recent Saturday night here, but perhaps not as much as our initial visit around five years ago. In some ways, Clos Maggiore has become a victim of its own success; customers go here expecting to be both wowed and wooed. It is a place for special dinners and also for tourists, much more so than it can be considered an integral part of the high-end London dining scene. The main dining room definitely impresses: a beautiful conservatory adorned with apple blossom, fairy lights and a log fire, comprising just seven tables. We were lucky enough to benefit from one of these, although diners going here with high expectations may find them dashed should they be seated in the somewhat less glamorous ante room. We also could not help noticing, however, that even the atmosphere of the more intimate conservatory was slightly marred by the constant clicking of cameras and requests for couples to pose for obligatory photos taken by servers. Furthermore, table-turning is very much an active strategy here – particularly given the location of the restaurant proximate to theatre land - and so we also felt the ambience also diminished by the constant entry and exit of new couples, awaiting their experience. Nonetheless, before readers get the impression that this is a negative review, the above observations do constitute quibbles from a seasoned and sceptical London diner. On the positive side, the food and wine merit high praise and pricing is very competitive relative to other comparable locations. The approach at Clos Maggiore is billed as one of contemporary French cuisine, although the name of the restaurant also hints at a strong Italian influence too. Being a celebratory event, we enjoyed a glass of crisp and refreshing house champagne before moving onto the tasting menus, omnivorous for me, vegetarian for my comrade. We noted their relative originality (no scallop or steak on my menu, rather crab and duck as the highlights) and also a focus on simplicity rather than each dish comprising a list of obscure ingredients, coupled with jus and/or foam. Even something as relatively basic as my comrade’s papardella with wild mushrooms and grated fresh truffle was prepared superbly with the flavours speaking for themselves. The paired wines also scored well, both for quality and originality. The sommelier had sourced good and inventive matches from Austria, Italy and Chile (among others) with relatively little reliance on France. For all this, at £55/head (or £90 with wines included), it is hard to complain. A little more charisma from some of the servers would have improved things further. In conclusion, Clos was pretty good, but it will probably be at least five years until we return again, given how many other options there are across London, whether for romantics or for fine diners.