After a fairly disastrous visit to Carluccio’s last month, we left them a fairly scathing review. We were contacted by the manager to apologise and invite us back and sample their new winter menu, as their guests. However unimpressed we were on our last visit, we felt willing to give them another chance and were ensured the bill was on the house.
The new menu seems much smaller than it was, but there did seem to be more variety. Normally Italian chain restaurants bloat out their menus by combining every type of pasta with every kind of sauce, whereas here it seems more focussed and thought through. The first thing we noticed is that the previously offending lobster spaghetti was no longer on the menu. I picked the seafood tagliatelle while Emily opted for a sea bass dish. We also ordered a side of garlic & cheese focaccia between us to share and a nice bottle of white wine that the waiter helpfully recommended to us.
After a short wait, our food arrived and looked impressive. My seafood tagliatelle was a good sized dish and smelt amazing so I couldn’t wait to tuck in.
The seafood was a combination of king prawn, clams, mussels and – according to the menu -fish roe but I couldn’t detect this anywhere. This was mixed with pasta in a tomato, basil and chilli sauce – so far so good! My first target was a king prawn which tasted amazingly fresh and worked well with the sauce, however the real stars of the dish were the clams. Every time I’ve eaten clams before they have been small and fairly tasteless but here they really impressed me. They were large and really flavourful. I reluctantly gave one to Emily to sample who agreed they were exceptionally noteworthy.
The only real let down were the mussels. They were a bit small and nowhere near as tasty as the clams or prawns but this didn’t detract from a great dish.
Emily’s sea bass arrived looking very healthy and fresh with a side of broccoli, peas, soy beans and almond.
The sea bass was well seasoned and well cooked though the skin could have been slightly crispier. The veg were, again, well cooked and tasty with a citrusy chilli kick. Although the two fillets looks a lot, it wasn’t particularly large or filling for £14.95 – it felt like it was missing an element, maybe some nice new potatoes and/or a sauce would have been perfect with it. Having said this, it was really very tasty and great option for someone trying to eat healthily or is a pescatarian.
For pudding, I ordered the salted caramel and chocolate sundae while Emily ordered the tiramisu. The sundae was good enough without being amazing.
After a jaunt to the deli to check out the (extremely tempting) cakes and tarts with the knowledgable and helpful server, Emily settled on a tiramisu declaring that an Italian meal called for their most prolific dessert. It arrived as a chunky slice in a dessert glass; a very generous portion.
One layer of lady fingers was deliciously saturated in yummy coffee and the other layer was slightly dryer, a m ix of textures that was really enjoyable. The marscapone and cream portion was smooth, sweet and indulgent – just how it should be. We would remove the dry lady finger served on the side – they’re not very pleasant on their own (so dry!).
We finished the meal with a couple of cocktails. I had the Gin Giardino which balanced gin, elderflower and cucumber flavours very well; a lovely sweet botanical taste. Emily had a Lemon Spritz, another fresh, citrusy cocktail that combined lemoncello and prosecco – very nice indeed.
It’s hard to give a fair review in this situation seeing as we didn’t pay for the meal and the restaurant was keen to impress us this time around to make up for a previously poor experience. However, it’s hard to deny that they do seem to have really upped their game: a smarter menu, more delicious ingredients and much improved service made for a vastly more enjoyable dining experience. We are also planning to revisit anonymously in the future so we get a more rounded view of any improvements.
Emily & Stuart