Carluccio’s has encountered some choppy waters in recent years, but a lunchtime visit to its flagship restaurant revealed it largely to be sailing fair. Up a stone staircase attractively decorated with pots of herbs are two floors of dining rooms (downstairs is the deli). Noise levels reflect a strong mum-and-toddler contingent yet aren’t uncivilised. Service, however, can seem distracted. Slightly burnt toast made with Tuscan bread let down a gorgeously velvety chicken liver pâté; better was calamari fritti – tender and not too greasy. Penne alla luganica (pasta with sausage sauce) looked underwhelming, but had just the right concentration of meat and seasoning. Beef stew slow-cooked with Chianti is a regular favourite, its rich taste and soft texture marrying nicely with polenta for perfect winter comfort food. On our summer lunchtime visit, however, we opted for another of Carluccio’s signature dishes: penne giardiniera, a highly enjoyable vegetarian mix of chilli, courgette and fried spinach balls. Panna cotta with vanilla, rum and candied orange proved an exquisite finish. The wine list is friendlier than many Italian rivals, offering several bottles under £20, plus three types of Peroni beer and classic Italian aperitivo.
|Venue name:||Carluccio's Caffè||Contact:|
2A Garrick Street
|Opening hours:||Breakfast served 8am-11.30pm Mom-Fri; 9am-11.30pm Sat; 9am-10.30pm Sun. Meals served 12.30-11.30pm Mon-Sat; 12.30-10.30pm Sun|
|Transport:||Tube: Covent Garden tube|
|Price:||Main courses £8.95-£15.95. Set meal £9.95 2 courses, £13.45 3 courses|
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