Nestled just outside Covent Garden's piazza, Clos Maggiore beckons you in with its wine-red façade and window box greenery. Walking through the wood-panelled bar the interior is reminiscent of a gentleman's club, with its generously stocked whisky and brandy cabinets — but you really want a table in the back section. This indoor courtyard has a stone floor, a glass ceiling draped with fairy-lit foliage and a large fireplace at the centre. Depending on your cynicism levels, it's either incredibly twee or devastatingly romantic. We embraced the moment and chose to bask in the latter.
We had a lovely corner table from which to people-watch and work our way through three divine courses from chef Marcellin Marc's classic Mediterranean menu, each paired expertly with different wines by the charming sommelier, Macio (obviously having matching wines by the glass does mount up but there is a range of prices — ours were between £5.50 and £14.50 per glass).
My starter of wild scallops with a salt cod brandade and an herb vinaigrette was light and flavoursome, the scallops cooked to translucent perfection. My guest's smoked salmon pancake, which came finely sliced and drizzled with lobster and lemon sauce, looked good enough to Instagram (every course was beautifully presented).
Roasted Maine lobster with mousseline in a foamey bisque was creamy and decadent — verging on naughty when joined by the truffled mashed potatoes recommended by our waiter. My guest's honey-glazed Gressingham duck with plums was rich and tender when I snaffled a piece, albeit too sweet for my taste. Puddings are traditional — we tried the rhubarb Eton Mess and a chocolate pistachio dome — and delicious.
Each wine (even a maverick spicy red with my lobster) complemented the dish it came with and the staff here somehow makes every moment of the meal seem like an occasion, a real treat. I felt like I'd stumbled into a scene in Pretty Woman — in a good way. Love will definitely be in the air at Clos Maggiore — if not with your dining partner, unquestionably with your food.
The thought that has gone into each dish and the wine list of Biblical proportions.
The staff. Quiet and helpful but also keen to direct you to the very best of the menu.
The fresh bread offered to us not twice but three times — try the home-baked foccacia.
The not so good:
Don't go here mid-diet — this is a menu in which truffle oil, mayonnaise and foie gras abound.
A fairytale spot where you can feel as though you've stepped out of busy London for a moment and enjoy indulgent, lovingly conceived food.
Clos Maggiore, 33 King Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 8JD (+44 (0)20 7379 9696; closmaggiore.com)