There’s something reassuring about visiting a chain restaurant, especially one as successful as Carluccio. You know it’s not going to be Cordon Bleu cooking yet they are familiar and there is an expectation that you will be tucking into Italian food that’s tasty enough to spend some time eating.
Carluccio first opened in 1991 when Antonio Carluccio and his Priscilla Conran (sister of Terence Contran) opened their Italian food shop in Neal Street. Then they opened the first Carluccio’s Caffe in Market Place and today they have 75 branches throughout the UK.
Including one in Hampstead – my local you might say.
Decked out in muted colours, ambient lighting, jazzy background music, there’s no airs and graces. Plus the staff are exceptionally friendly and welcoming and this great serviced and upscale cafe-style combo makes for a very pleasant experience.
Food and Drink
The menu is plentiful and varied and there is a theme. Carluccio pushes its identity as a definitively Italian restaurant. The founder Antonio’s motto, when it comes to food is “MOF MOF” – a minimum of fuss, maximum of flavour. Has he achieved that?
Starters are not particularly revolutionary, I hade tomato bruschetta with plum tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil and my guest the light and a crispy Calamari.
The main course was generous cut of juicy sirloin steak served with cut potatoes and broccoli and a Milanese chicken served with salad.
TIP: There is a vegan version of this called the Veganese which is a plant-based escalope prepared in rosemary breadcrumbs served with broccoli, sweet and sour peppers, raisins and flaked almonds.
Desert was a giant fully filled profiterole and a suitably sweet strawberry cheesecake.
So yes all very MOF MOF – Italian style
Verdict. If you are a lady (or indeed anyone) who lunches or wants a pleasant place to meet-up for a natter over inexpensive and nicely cooked food, then Carluccio delivers. Where this chain excels is the staff – they undergo eight weeks of training and they do indeed deliver impeccable service.
Incidentally, this branch comes with a small shop that sells Italian products. So I came away with a Panetone. Well, it is nearly Christmas.
You can find your local Carluccio at Carluccio.com