Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Carluccio’s – Killer Italian Food in London

On my last night in London, while travelling on business, I was in the mood for a special treat. When I say this, I’m usually referring to dessert or pasta. In this case, it was the latter, as I was on the hunt to find something yummy in Marylebone’s quaint “restaurant row,” located at St. Christopher’s Place. In fact, this area was so buzzing that night, that I had a hard time choosing my final destination.

Running into a busy restaurant with so much spark and buzz, I looked up to the blue awning that said Carluccio’s. It rang a bell, as my boss, Lauren told me about it just a few hours ago. “Cool…I found it,” I thought as I immediately approached the hostess.

As I already hinted, Carluccio’s was full. Being that it was an unseasonably warm night (temperatures in the low 70’s in September – and in London to boot!), swarms of people sat outside, creating this infectious buzz that initially drew me in.

Although I tried to sit outside, these tables were hard to come by and would result in a rather long wait. No matter, I chose to stay and sit inside, catching the warm breeze from the open windows and doors.

Just like the exterior of the restaurant, the inside was also hoppin’. Skillful waiters weaved in and out of busy tables, bringing out delicious looking things by the second. I liked the social, almost communal atmosphere of the interior, as there were a couple of rectangular tables for larger parties, and also more traditional four and two tops, the latter which I occupied.

Additionally to the restaurant portion, Carluccio’s is also a specialty foods shop, selling unique Italian goods such as fresh pasta, truffle butter, olives, sauces, gelato, spices, olive oils and much more. I chose to take advantage of this perk, but more on that later.

As soon as I got the menu, my eye immediately gravitated to the pasta. Being that it was freshly made, it was hard not to take this route. However, something else caught my eye, which was the 2-course prix-fixe menu for just 9.95 British Pounds (approximately $15). There, you had a choice of several enticing appetizers and even more attractive-sounding entrees, fresh pasta being among them.

Chicken Liver Mousse – Being a total sucker for this dish, I ordered it without hesitation. Part of it is its novelty, as I don’t get to have it often at home (Dan doesn’t care for it, plus it’s pretty fatty). It came out quickly and I was surprised at its presentation – packed into a long white ramekin, topped with fresh rosemary. I had to pierce the top layer of fat (trust me…it’s good) with my knife and then got to the moussey chicken liver spread. Taking a generous chunk of it, I slathered it on top of the nicely toasted crostini, also on my plate. Then, I further topped it with a cute little cornichon. Mmmm…it produced a perfect bite of richness from the chicken liver, crunch from the bread and acid from the cornichons. Although simple, the dish had elegance.

Fresh Ravioli with Spinach and Ricotta Cheese – This is what I really came for, and I couldn’t be happier with my choice. The pasta was utterly delicate, thin and velvety smooth upon contact with your fork (not to mention your tastebuds). The spinach/ricotta stuffing was also delectable, and clearly made from scratch. Despite it being a rather large plate of pasta, it didn’t feel heavy at all, which was testimony to its fine ingredients. Some freshly fried sage on top sealed the deal, solidifying this as the ultimate Italian deliciousness. And who said you can’t get good Italian food in London!? Nonsense!

After finishing my lovely dinner, I also perused Carluccio’s shop and decided on a tiny jar of truffle butter. Already thinking about the ways I’d use it when I got home (on bread, pasta, veggies), I paid for my purchase and walked out completely satiated.

Service and Cost:

Although somewhat gruff, the service was very speedy and efficient, turning tables quickly at this busy hour. For a single diner, it was quite perfect, but maybe if I was with a larger group, I’d want to hang around longer.

Costs are affordable and especially given the fine quality of food. The dinner I just described set me back only 9.95 British Pounds ($15) and the truffle butter was another 3.95 Pounds ($6). After taking a look at Carluccio’s website when I got home, I saw there are many other locations around London, so if you find yourself there, do check any of them out.

3 Mmmms

Carluccio’s – St. Christopher’s Place, London W1U 1AY 020 7935 5927
Tube to Bond Street

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