The sharing plates menu will also draw in lovers of tapas, groups looking for a low-key dining experience, or anyone like me who just has eyes bigger than their stomach and wants to try a bit of everything!
In a word
Fresh Italian food
Carluccios regulars who enjoy the reliable, good quality, fresh food it offers for a reasonable price, but want to mix it up a bit.
The Covent Garden branch of Carluccios, unlike so many of their modern stores, gives a real sense of stately glamour and drama right in the heart of Theatreland. It’s a beautiful building with domed ceilings and sweeping staircases. As well as a restaurant, the branch has a deli shop so you can try and recreate some Italian delicacies at home, and a mirrored event space, which is where we found ourselves on a practically tropical Wednesday evening. The perfect time to try summer menus!
We were treated to an array of food, displayed beautifully on platters in the centre on the room, and endlessly replenished by some seriously ‘on it’ staff. The only downside to this was that it was difficult to see what the actual portion sizes for the plates will be when ordered in the restaurant. However, we can tell you what they tasted like…
Pepolata Arancini (£3.95)
Delicious light and fluffy risotto balls with pepolata and mozerella and a pepper mayo dipping sauce. These were perfectly seasoned and not dry, oily or a total stodge-fest as is so often the case with rice. I could have eaten a whole plate.
Crunchy breadsticks wrapped in Parma ham. As with everything on the night, the meat was the best quality. They even had someone on hand slicing the ham in front of us. Whilst the flavours were definitely there, I couldn’t help but think it needed a sauce to add some moisture to the crispy and chewy textures.
Yummy beef meatballs in a tomato sauce. These were probably my favourite- not too rich but packed full of flavour, and again, you could tell the meat was good quality. Definitely a dish for those hankering after a tapas- style meal, or anyone trying to steer clear of the endless bread!
Mini bruschettas two ways- one traditional tomato and the other, goats cheese and onion jam. Whilst perfectly nice these were probably my least favourite of everything we tried. The tomatoes weren’t as well seasoned as with other dishes and I would have liked more of the goats cheese and less of the rather acidic onion jam.
Caprese bites (£3.95)
Small canapé style skewers of buffalo mozerella and cherry tomatoes drizzled with oil and balsamic. I wasn’t expecting much from this very simple dish but it was absolutely delicious, testament to the ingredients used by Carluccios’s: super fresh and flavoursome. I want to know where they get their tomatoes!
Traditional Sicilian sweet and sour stew, made from aubergine, olives and pine nuts (amongst other ingredients I couldn’t discern!) with a chunk of focaccia.This was unlike anything else I’ve ever had before and more similar in taste to a tart chutney than a stew. It was lovely to cut through the heavy meat and cheese of some of the other dishes.
Antipasti (£12.25- 16.95)
We were also treated to a number of items from the antipasti dishes, which are mostly made up of a great range of excellent cheeses and meats, with focaccia. If you can stretch to the Grandioso antipasti (£16.95), do, because with that you get the most amazing pancetta wrapped prawns.
Prosecco (£4.95/ £24.00) Need I say more?
Lemon Spritz (£5.95)- Limoncello, Limonata and Prosecco. The perfect summery accompaniment to cut through the meat and cheese heavy food.
Although unfortunately not on the normal Carluccio’s menu, we were also treated to beer ‘Infusions’ cocktails from House of Peroni. We have cocktails with prosecco and champagne, so why not beer? The Strawberry Field one I tried was very refreshing and sweet but a little light on the alcohol for a cocktail for me!
Carluccio’s has become a byword for good quality, tasty and reasonably priced food. They have a good thing going, focusing on Italian inspired fresh dishes, so why change a winning formula. The sharing plates menu is not so much a new range- I’ve had both the breadsticks and risotto balls before- but more a ‘greatest hits’ selection. The sharing plates are perfect for sociable summer evenings, or as reminders of holidays in the Mediterranean.
It was difficult to work out the portion sizes but for £3.95 per plate or 3 for £10, I think these are a great deal!