All but blown away with chef Marcellin Marc's 'ultimate chocolate menu' back in October, we've kept his Covent Garden French restaurant, Clos Maggiore, in mind over the months, often remembering fondly delectable elements of the meal, the quality of service and Clos Maggiore's lovely conservatory. With Valentine's Day just around the corner, we thought now would be a good time to have a chat with Marcellin and find out what he thinks makes Clos Maggiore such an esteemed, romantic and delicious place to dine.
How long have you been Head Chef at Clos Maggiore and what's your background as a chef?
I've been working at Clos Maggiore for over five years. This is my first position as head chef and I'm very grateful to Paul Corrett (proprietor of Clos Maggiore) who gave me the opportunity to work for him at the restaurant. He came to meet me in the south of France when I was working at the Clos de la Violette in Aix en Provence and he brought me back to London to cook Provencal and Mediterranean food in Covent Garden.
Clos Maggiore is widely regarded as one of London's most romantic restaurants. Much of that is the ambience of the restaurant's gorgeous cherry tree conservatory. Would you describe the food at Clos Maggiore as romantic? How much of a role does the kitchen play in creating the mood of the restaurant?
The team and I cook what we would like to eat if we were going out - good produce nicely seasoned, well balanced flavours, nothing over the top or aggressive about presentation, and that's exactly like the atmosphere and decor of the room. It's just about pleasure for the guest and making them feel comfortable and at home for a few hours.
We last visited Clos Maggiore to sample your special six-course Chocolate Week menu. It was fabulous and we hope you bring it back. Do you create special menus on a regular basis? What can diners expect during a more ordinary visit?
I buy what is best on the day and there is always a choice for everyone whether they are into meat, fish or are vegetarians. Our food is always beautifully presented and often innovative in terms of the foods and flavours we combine, and like you say we do create special menus from time to time, including tasting menus for certain occasions like New Year, but we also have a set lunch and pre-theatre menu at just £22.50 - both change every day and they are available seven days a week.
What's the secret to great French cooking? How do good French restaurants in London compare to those in France?
I can't say I know the secret to great French cooking - perhaps Alain Ducasse or Joel Robuchon might know the answer! I'm just cooking with my heart and passion and I'm still learning, though maybe that is the answer. The standard in English French restaurants is equally as high as many French restaurants, but French restaurants in England are often so expensive - I think that it's a pity to have to spend so much to eat properly.
What do you think of British cuisine?
I love British cuisine - when it is done properly, of course.
Where you like to dine and shop for food in London?
Favourite places to dine are J Sheekey, Bentley Oyster Bar and L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon. For food shopping, it has to be Whole Foods in Kensington.
Clos Maggiore is located at 33 King Street, WC2E 8JD, just a short stroll from Covent Garden's Piazza. Booking is advisable. Visit them online at www.closmaggiore.com.
Photo courtesy of the chef