An old bank in KIng’s Cross now rewards customers with high interest Italian food
You realise that Magenta was once a bank the moment you walk in; it has the typical corner entrance and those big windows that say ‘Barclays’.
Shorn of the ugly suspended ceilings that most banks acquired in the 80s, the space soars up thrillingly in an industrial futurescape of ducting that’s home to hundreds of imitation butterflies.
Where once customers snaked in an endless queue to pay in cheques, there’s now a gorgeous horseshoe bar. The whole place is a splatter of vibrant colours that contrast with the eternally grey Euston Road outside, but which sit well with the glory of St Pancras station opposite.
Although to be pedantic, it’s the Midland Grand Hotel that’s on top of St Pancras station.
Metal topped tables without tablecloths keep it informal, but it all exudes fine style right down to the pewter coloured cutlery. Overall, the designer, Henry Chebaane, has created a kind of steampunk vibe in homage to the area’s industrial past.
Opened post pandemic, in Magenta’s kitchen is Executive Head Chef Manuele Bazzoni, who has worked at Le Boudin Blanc as Head Chef as well as at Trinity, and the first thing he sends out to us are two amuse gueules of a Beetroot choux bun with smoked goat cheese and candied walnut, and a Tartlet with Stracciatella, peas and chives oil, along with a stunning warm charcoal sourdough loaf to tear and then to dip into a bowl of peppery, grassy, Sicilian EVO.
Starters proper are a tuna tartare with raspberry vinegar, candied olives and a buffalo mozzarella emulsion for me, and for P a crispy cannellone of Dorset crab with a bisque jelly and preserved lemon gel.
The tartare is rather sweetly presented surrounded by beach pebbles. I did carefully bite one of those, to see if it was real, but of course that kind of thing died out with Heston Blumenthal; they are genuine pebbles.
The tuna is genuinely, leapingly, fresh and the raspberry vinegar and mozzarella are an unusual partnership that works. There’s some crunch from radish, and citrus from a leaf or two of shisu (perilla) , a herb often used as a wrap for sashimi. All very good.
P has raptures over her crab cannellone which she reckons is the best she’s had all year. Presentation is picture perfect and the lemon gel is a great idea. She finds the bisque jelly a bit strong, but I try some and I like it. The essence of the sea.
It’s not often I do the whole four course thing in an Italian restaurant these days, but we’re assured the Primi are modestly sized. They are certainly attractively described.
Goats curd and lemon tortelli with mint pesto and pea foam are gorgeous, although I get in a bit of a tangle with the pea shoots. Foam may be a little dated as an idea now, but it works so who cares? The pasta is, to my mind, a fraction undercooked but not a problem.
For P it’s ‘hand pinched’ Agnolotti, slow cooked beef and smoked creme fraiche. It’s a beautiful ragu, the sort of thing you’d happily get in a small Italian village restaurant, served from an enormous pot, here it’s made visually elegant and the smoked creme fraiche is a very good and simple idea. Everything’s better when it’s smoked, isn’t it.
Secondi we still have space for, thanks to sensible portion control on the pasta but even so my Suckling Pig, black pudding, salt baked celeriac with grape mustard, apple and fennel pollen is a challenge.
The pig is served porchetta style as a slice, the black pudding as a kind of fritter. The pork is melting, with layers of contrasting texture. The black pudding is soft and the apple works as well as apple always does with black pudding, they are such natural platefellows. Celeriac, which we don’t use enough in the UK, is another perfect foil.
Who doesn’t like sea bass? It’s an expensive fish for sure but to my mind superior to just about every other. Here a fat fillet comes roasted with a potato crust, partnered by a deep fried courgette flower in tempura and some mussels. Lightly griddled green onions add a welcome touch of acidity against the fry. Another pretty and perfect dish.
And so to dessert. I’m a bit porked out but still enjoy my hazelnut and white chocolate praline with salted caramel ganache, served with banana ice cream, garnished with cocoa tuile and Vecchia Romagna jelly with golden leaf.
Not as heavy as I anticipated, with clean flavours and the hazelnut brings a welcome crunch.
P’s Amalfi lemon curd is on a bed of a gluten free crumble, not that she’s bothered about gluten and has an olive oil and lemon sauce. On top is a crispy meringue, finger lime and lemon balm. It’s all very elegant and affluent.
Wines from Sommelier Adriana Valentini were delicious, an Italian rose and a white that went well with the fish dishes and even survived the porking.
And prices are surprisingly low for the quality of room and food, making Magenta a very worthwhile investment.
That was the last bank-related pun.