Friday, September 17, 2004

Review of Carluccio's

Being stuck for options, I lunched at Carluccio's in Ealing (west London) today.
£44 for two with a bit of alcohol, coffee, water, 2 mains, 1 dessert, 1 starter + average/poor service.

Pasta con funghi (£5.95) was ok - egg pasta was a little dry, the mushrooms seemed to be exclusively button with scarce a wild or brown in site, and the sauce was water,butter, parsley + garlic, not helped by dry parmesan.
Mains were chicken breasts breadcrumbed + fried with a meagre salad (£8.25). They were badly underseasoned + mine seemed to be on the turn - it had a slightly gamey flavour that I associate with old poultry.
Dessert of a poached peach, cream and peach/amaretti puree (£4.25) was ok - peach was a strange bright red, but the peach/amaretti puree was very good.
Average/good machiatto (no brown sugar though)

Nothing notable either way really except for the pretentiousness of the operation. See the website for evidence of the folksy-yet-modern advertising. I actually like the design of the restaurants, and I like the simple approach to the food, but I do not like the prices and the holier than thou attitude I sense (I commented on this here).
Carluccio made nearly £2 million last year from his business, yet he still goes on about the value of localism/slow food/anti-supermarkets, when in fact his operation is as much a multinational as those he criticises.
As I have said before, if I got this food for €15 in a simple place in Italy, I wouldn't moan too much. But when I pay almost €15 for a tasteless fried chicken breast in a highly designed environ, it takes the piss a little.

All in all though, I think Carluccio has been good for a particular aspect of gastronomy in this country, but it is time to move on and upwards.


Blogger Sam said...

when i first began working in london in the late 80s, i was left 200 pounds in a will. I was only earning 8 grand a year at the time so it was a lot of money. I used half of it to buy a pair of (French) Freelance shoes, the other half I decided to spurge on a fancy meal. I chose Carluccios on Neal Street (that was long before he had all those offshoot places). The concept of dining in a fancy restaurant was utterly alien to me back then so I remember the experience well. I chose Carluccios only because back then mushrooms were just about my favourite food (I was veggie then), and he was more famous for his mushroom connection than anything else.
Things I'll never forget from that meal:
I had a linguine in truffle cream sauce. My first ever taste of truffle. Wow! I'll never forget it.
I wasn't a Creme brulee virgin, but had never come across the Carluccio circa 1989 version before. The caramel topping was so hard and thick that the waiter bought a little silver hammer to the table with it, to crack the surface into eatable pieces.
Sam Breach

18 September 2004 at 17:50  
Blogger Peter A Rossi said...

I have heard + read lots of wonderful things about his Neal street restaurant in the 80s/90s, but unfortunately, as he has expanded, he has in my opinion spread himself too thin. Whilst Ramsay has the depth of talent to expand his business successfully, it seems Carluccio does not. Also, places like Locatelli, River Cafe + Zafferano have upped the ante when it comes to Italian food.
He is good at what he does, and his business is a big success, so he is doing something right. But I just get a little annoyed by his folksy faux-traditional Italian advertising.

18 September 2004 at 23:05  
Blogger Sam said...

I am sure I would be annoyed too, if I was there to see it. Faux traditional Italian doesn't sound like my cup of tea. Instead I have to make do with gruesome commercials for Red Lobster and Taco Bell instead. I think i did try one of his newer chain cafes north of Oxford street somewhere, about 4 or so years ago. it must have been one of the first ones he opened.(no recollection of the food therefore must have been unmemmorable) Sounds like he's taking over. In Neal street he used to have a little deli too (is it still there), which i also used to visit regularly for takeaway lunches and it was really good at the time (early 90s)- there really was nothing else like it in the area at that time. It was expensive but it was so much better than the other options, and because i am fussy about my food i used to treat myself there often. I am sorry to hear it has turned into the marketing machine moster you have described.

19 September 2004 at 00:36  

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