I've talked about Carluccio's a couple of times before but I haven't ever properly reviewed it. Strange really. I love it there. The ambience is very definitely Italian and they, as most Italians do, have a good offering for vegetarians.
For this meal we were with a large group - two of Mr K's school friends and their families - five children, six adults and surprisingly very little chaos!
We were seated quickly in a fairly quiet restaurant. Smart planning on the part of one of the other mums - the restaurant did fill up a bit later but we were served fairly swiftly. The waiters weren't at all phased by slow decisions by small people and swiftly brought out flat breads for the children to eat and took the orders for children as quickly as possible, meaning that they got their food first and had longer to eat it. They also got activity packs which had been updated since our last visit. They kept the three boys fairly busy until their food arrived.
The adults opted for a range of breads - in a rare moment of disorganisation I didn't take a photo. They were good, particularly the cheesy foccacia.
I do have to gush about my choice of drink. This gorgeous espresso martini has me sold on martinis. It was smooth and ridiculously easy to drink. It disappeared rather quickly! The coffee beans on the top were an excellent addition. Kind of strange crunching on them while drinking but it worked.
I went off menu for my main. I tend to rely on the same favourites - the ravioli in a butter and sage sauce is just as good as any I've had in Italy and it's hard to choose something else but this time I felt it prudent to try something new. So I opted for the chicken pasta without the chicken. Bear with me. It was chicken and mushrooms in a sauce on pasta. Without the chicken, it was a creamy pasta with a whole variety of mushrooms. Sometimes it's worth seeing how good places are with dealing with off menu. I am sorry for the slightly blurry picture here, I'm going to blame the martini on that!
I did that non-vegetarian thing of having parmesan on top. Sorry about that. It was fairly good - probably lacking a bit in mushrooms - some places will up the other ingredients if you ask for one to be removed - Carluccio's didn't on this occasion meaning there was a bit too much sauce... but given that it's an off menu, I can't judge them too harshly on it. The pine nuts were a good addition to the dish, adding a slight crunch.
At this point, the Christmas presents were exchanged and so D's Lego present is in the background of this next shot. Part food blogger/part mum...
Again, I tend to go for the same choices whenever I get to Carluccio's - the affogato is a light way to end the meal that I always opt for. Opting for both a liqueur and coffee over the ice-cream helps to make it feel a little more indulgent. My favourite, incidentally, is amaretto. Anyway, Christmas means pushing the boat out, right? I was strongly tempted by the salted caramel sundae but went for this meringue concoction 'Meringa con Panna al Frutto della Passione' which reminds me of Eton mess basically. The meringue was a little powdery, the cream a little lacking and the blackberries claimed by Roo. To be fair, the last of these wasn't the fault of Carluccio's. It was passable and a reasonable end to the meal but it could have been better. An explosion of powdery meringue with nothing to balance it is a little disconcerting. All of the ingredients were tasty but the quantities just weren't quite right.
As ever, Carluccio's got the service spot on and dealt fantastically with the small children on the table. The expresso martini was a revelation - I'll be getting that again. We will be back - but I might go back to ordering my tried and tested favourites next time. It was great to catch up with friends and get the children together.
Any Christmas meals that you recommend? Where should I try next year?