Located on Great Queen Street in Covent Garden (in a building last home to Indian restaurant Moti Mahal), Italian eatery Margot is the first collaboration by restaurateurs Nicolas Jaouen and Paulo de Tarso.
The pair previously worked together at Scott’s in Mayfair – Jaouen’s other roles have included restaurant director at Alain Ducasse and general manager at La Petite Maison, while Tarso was maitre d’ at Bar Boulud at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park.
They have employed executive chef Maurizio Morelli, formerly of fine-dining Italian restaurant Latium in Fitzrovia, and well known for his excellent pasta dishes.
The name Margot is simply taken from that of Paulo’s mother-in-law, but note also the use of the silhouette of a dachshund in promotional materials, on the website, and on items including the restaurant’s stylish breadstick holders. This was apparently inspired by a similar sounding (and presumably affectionate) nickname for said mother-in-law.
Paulo said that they had been keen to steer away from “the check table cloths of typical Italian restaurants”, while at the same time avoiding the “stuffy” feel of many high-end eateries.
To this end they have opted for lots of low-heighted, curved booth seating, allowing an open feel – the layout means that on many tables, guests sit on adjacent sides, rather than opposite each other, which again was designed deliberately to create a less formal atmosphere. Tables are dressed in white tablecloths for evening service, but left undressed at lunchtime.
When we visited on a cold, wet, wintry evening in January, the restaurant was buzzing, and what was immediately apparent was the mix of clientele, from several families to casual diners and those in business attire.
The restaurant is split across two floors – the main ground floor with a bar across the back, and a basement floor with a smaller bar in one corner. We sat upstairs, and I would choose to do so again, as the lack of windows downstairs gives it a slightly closed in feel, and you also have diners from upstairs walking past to visit the basement level toilets.
The extensive a la carte menu is split into no less than ten sections, and I would advise anyone planning on visiting to take a look at it online here beforehand, as we found it a little overwhelming when it came to making choices.
At the top of the menu are the piattini di salumi and formaggi – small plates of salumi and cheese, as well a section of larger plates of the same. These are followed by several raw carpaccio and tartare choices, then separate sections for starters and salads, followed by pasta dishes, “main courses”, sides and finally desserts.
The pasta dishes can be ordered in small (starting from £9.50) or large (starting from £13.50) portions, and for us were undoubtedly the standout choices during our visit.
I tried the tagliolini with Sicilian red prawns, artichokes and torpedino tomatoes (pictured below) as a starter, which was delicious – the pasta was perfectly cooked, the sauce rich, and the prawns juicy and bursting with flavour.
For my main course I chose the roast Cornish monkfish wrapped in pancetta, cannellini beans, black truffle, quail eggs (pictured further below). The fish was well cooked, but I found the flavours a little dull after the highs of the tagliolini dish.
My guest (a vegetarian) had a starter of burrata from Puglia, with a heritage tomato salad and basil pesto, followed by the ricotta and lemon ravioli, fresh tomatoes and basil sauce – she was absolutely delighted with the pasta, and insisted I try some (I did, and agreed with her). My guest’s choice were probably among the most simple on the menu, but both were so fresh and flavoursome, and testament to the simplicity of good Italian cooking.
For dessert I opted for the flattened Sicilian cannolo, ricotta cream and pistachio ice cream – again it didn’t wow me in terms of flavours, but thankfully my guest had chosen the rum baba, with tangerine cream and orange sauce, which was a perfect end to the meal – sweet, moist and ridiculously moreish (to my guest’s annoyance, as she was barely allowed to eat half of it).
Margot has also recently started a brunch menu, available between 1200 and 1600 at weekends, and with choices including poached eggs on tomato and avocado bruschetta with crispy pancetta, and Italian lemon crepes with wild berries and mascarpone.
Margot has certainly not scrimped on staff – from the moment we walked in and were greeted by door staff and two receptionists, there seemed to be a staff member for pretty much every function of the restaurant.
At one point a member of waiting staff brought our bread basket, only to be followed a couple of minutes later by someone whose sole job seemed to be to pour olive oil for the bread into bowls – neither of them were seen again (at our table at least) during our visit.
This might sound over the top, but the service was attentive yet discreet throughout, and we were impressed at how smoothly the restaurant ran, on what was a busy night.
Excellent service, superb pasta dishes and a buzzing atmosphere, Nicolas and Paulo have succeeded in creating a welcoming venue which should appeal to business travellers and theatregoers alike.
- OPENING HOURS Monday-Friday 1200-1500 and 1730-2230; Saturday and Sunday 1200-1600 and 1730-2230 (2130 on Sunday)
- PRICES Starters £9.50-£14.50; pasta dishes £9.50-£13 (small option) and £13.50-£17 (large option); main courses £17.50-£60 (for a salt-crusted whole seabass to share); desserts £6.50-£12.50
- CONTACT Margot, 45 Great Queen Street, Covent Garden, London; tel +44 (0) 203 409 4777; margotrestaurant.com