Angela Hartnett: My Career in Five Dishes

The much-loved chef talks rising from working for Gordon Ramsay at the height of his powers to become a titan of London restaurants and food TV, combining classic technique with Italian influences

Angela Hartnett: My Career in Five Dishes

Angela Hartnett is a chef who needs no introduction, but we're going to try our best anyway. There are just six Michelin-starred restaurants in London that are helmed by women; Angela Hartnett's Murano is one of them. For context, the total number of Michelin-starred restaurants in London as of March 2023 was 75. So hers is quite the achievement.

But, her Michelin star is arguably one of the least interesting parts of her time in kitchens – which is saying something. Hartnett's career started in Cambridge and then, after a stint at luxury hotel Sandy Lane in Barbados, took her to Gordon Ramsay's Aubergine. She eventually went on to become head chef at Petrus, a role she held when the restaurant was awarded its first Michelin star. Her time with Ramsay saw her join him in launching Scotland's Amaryllis, Dubai's Verre and MENU and The Grill Room at The Connaught.

The proximity in which she worked with Ramsay is notable, no less because of the star chef's reputation, and the conversations around working as a woman in kitchens during the time period in which Ramsay himself seemed to personify the overarching attitude. "Gordon gets a lot of stick," Hartnett tells me. "But everyone was like it. There's some people like it now. There's women like it. What Gordon's done for my career is incredible. I'll be forever thankful and grateful for it. Yes, there were moments, but most of the time I had a ball working for him. He looked after me."

People think Michelin is posh, and actually it's not. It's about what you put on the plate

In 2008, she stepped out on her own, opening Murano in Mayfair. If Ramsay was one defining influence on her career, the other was Italy, with Murano's food inspired largely by her Welsh-Italian mother and grandmother. While Hartnett had worked in Michelin-starred kitchens before – and, in the case of Petrus, been instrumental in earning them, Murano was the first venue where she herself had received the accolade.

"People think Michelin is posh, and actually it's not," she tells me when I ask her about the significance of the award. "It's about what you put on the plate. "One of the inspectors came in the day after I'd won the star. We chatted, and he said to me, 'Angela, you could have served that in a garage on trestle tables with no tablecloth and you'd still have got a star.'"

Fourteen years later, those words still hold significance – not just because Murano has retained its star over that time, but because Hartnett's cooking and extracurricular contributions to the restaurant world have gone on to receive worthy recognition. She opened the much-loved and more casual Cafe Murano in 2013, which now has three locations in London. In 2022 she was awarded an OBE for her work feeding NHS workers and supporting the hospitality industry over Covid. She has featured as a judge, guest and host on TV shows like Saturday Kitchen and Best Home Cook.

Simply put, Hartnett is not just the protegé of a household name; as her five dishes testify, she's become one herself.

Sweetbreads with carrots

Five Dishes, Angela Hartnett: sweetbreads with carrots

"We've always got derivatives of this dish on the menu. We've got sweetbreads on now at Murano, with carrots and a lovely carrot purée and some pickled carrots. I'd never used sweetbreads before I started working for Gordon. I was like, 'Oh, god, what is this? Wow.' But it's actually one of my favourite things. You don't see it often on menus, but when you do, it's absolutely delicious. We do these sweetbreads, and you've got the crispy skin, the milkiness inside, and then we do them with these Vichy carrots, which are classic sweet carrots with a touch of parsley, reduced down in a light sugar butter – and then we put them on top, and serve it with this sauternes sauce. It was one of the dishes Gordon cooked that I thought was just phenomenal, and I still think about it now."

Lemon Tart


Five Dishes, Angela Hartnett: lemon tart

"We've had this on the menu since day one at Murano – more than 15 years. To me, the best desserts are simple. Sometimes you get a complaint from someone going 'It's so simple.' But listen, this recipe is probably from Pierre Koffman, or if not it's from the Roux brothers who then went to Marco Pierre White and then gave it to Gordon, then I took it. And this lemon tart, which goes around all over the capital, is a derivative of those days. And that's what I love about cooking. We always say there's only ten recipes in the world, and everyone just adapts them. It's a great dish, and you can't hide behind it. Actually, when I was interested in talking to Michelin about it, one of them said one of the best dishes he ever had in a three-star restaurant was this dish of sliced mango with a vanilla custard. He said, "They were the best, and that was it." It was the best mango he has ever and will ever eat in his life. I think sometimes we want to make food more fussy than it needs to be. There's a lot to be said for simplicity."

Lamb and sausage ragu

Cafe Murano

Five Dishes, Angela Hartnett: lamb and sausage ragu

"We used to do a lovely charcuterie selection at Cafe Murano – we still do – and you have lots of trimmings at the end. My head chef at the time, Diego, was like, 'What are we doing?' So he made this ragu with all these other sausages, and chopped all the leftover salami ends and the prosciutto and all the rest of it, and it made this delicious ragu. We've had it on since day one – not always at Murano, but all the time at the cafés – and now we will get our own sausages made by our supplier HG Walter, and we use their sausage meat, and it's a really lovely dish. We used to have this lovely couple, Edna and Eric. They were both in their eighties, and they used to come in all the time, from the days I was at The Connaught – every month, and their anniversaries, birthdays. They'd always have the lunch menu. We made them the sausage ragu and they loved it. Even when it wasn't on the menu we'd make it for them."


Five Dishes, Angela Hartnett: arancini

"We've always had arancini on the menu at the cafés, we've often had them on at Murano too. They're a staple. It's just a lovely cicchetti thing. It's mainly from the south of Italy. It's not something I ever was brought up with or ate as a kid. But the south would really use it a lot. They normally fill it with a ragu, and they're much bigger – they're more sort of pinnacle-like, with domes – but we do these tiny little ones, and we just change them through the season. So they might have mushrooms and cream or might have other things. They work through the season, and we finish them with some nice grated Parmesan and fresh truffle."

Squid and crab linguine

Five Dishes, Angela Hartnett: squid and crab linguine

I think this is one of my favourite dishes. Everyone talks about lobster and scallops, but for me, crab is brilliant, and it's one of the things as a nation we are shockingly bad at eating. We have beautiful crab in this country. We send it all to Spain and France and everywhere else. Linguine, again, is a dish you can't hide behind. It's fresh, we make it with squid ink, so it's a lovely black pasta, and then you've got the whiteness of the crab, a bit of chilli finished with lemon, and it's just really beautiful. To me, it typifies where Italian cuisine is at: don't mess around with it, simple ingredients, do little with it, and look after it."