Not another Italian restaurant in Covent Garden, I hear you say. The Theatreland restaurant scene may be awash with them already, but in its relative infancy Margot is already trying to show it can compete with – if not better – the area’s established (and touristy) institutions.
most of the tables on the ground floor feel too exposed, a bit too open plan, a bit too… Bentham’s Panopticon.
I got the general sense that Margot is sticking to tried and tested formulas – which I don’t blame them for in these uncertain times. Margot has adopted that interior design that has been en vogue for a few years now: dark green leather banquettes, seating at the bar for solo diners, an open kitchen, and walls made out of wine bottles. The over-dressed staff are corseted in a formality that jars with the casual vibe they’re aiming for. My only other issue with the general layout is it’s a bit too open. I would very much like to go again but next time will ask to sit on the periphery or downstairs – most of the tables on the ground floor feel too exposed, a bit too open plan, a bit too… Bentham’s Panopticon.
Pre-dinner aperitifs are sensibly priced around the £9 price point. The Rosemary Collins (Tanqueray, rosemary and soda) was pleasant enough, if not remarkable, and there are interesting twists on the now ubiquitous Aperol and the back-to-the-eighties Campari. There’s nothing inherently wrong in this at all – it’s just not all that daring.
It’s the same with the food really: it’s all quite safe, and generic Italian rather than being bold enough to specialise in a particular region. Having said that, it’s all very competently prepared. I started with the radicchio and red wine risotto, which was served in its own dinky saucepan. This was bloody delicious: the Arborio rice was just south of al dente without being chalky, and all the ingredients came together beautifully, as they should in any decent risotto. Everything about this plate of loveliness was wonderful. My companion had the special scallop starter for around a tenner, and a generous portion it was too. Indeed, they don’t skimp on the portion size here (even if they may on the table size). My friend declared her osso buco as the best she’s ever had: the veal just melted before your eyes and the traditional bed of Milanese risotto underneath sang with saffron, glowing as yellow as Malvolio’s tights. Meanwhile, my main of pork belly was cooked lovingly and with respect to the pig; it was prepared ballotine style, thus allowing the pork inside to remain moist and tender, with a crisp outer shell. Certainly Margot scores well for cookery but there’s still room for a bit of invention and panache.
The wine list is excellent with most of Italy’s regions being well-represented, and a decent spread of other Old World and New World wines too. Having spent time wine tasting in Tuscany, I’m always partial to a Bolgheri: the 2013 Grattamacco I ordered, whilst a little young, was delightful – and fairly priced at £57. There is a lot to be admired about the glassware too.
The service, at times, needed a gentle nudge – there are no excuses really when there are plenty of staff, but despite a couple of mix-ups each member of staff encountered throughout the evening was very pleasant and friendly. Not a single surly waiter or waitress in sight.
Value-wise, I think it’s fair for Covent Garden and there is a very reasonable pre and post theatre offering, as well as brunch and a decent bar. Overall, Margot is already in my good books as a go-to Italian, even if it is a bit generic.
45 Great Queen Street
by J A Smith