Thursday, 5 January 2012

Carluccio's Glasgow - A review

Last night, hubby booked dinner at Carluccio's, the new Italian in Glasgow, after receiving a voucher for 2 for 1 on main meals.  (He really loves vouchers!)

Image Source - seems I'm not the only one who was disappointed if you read the comments!

Unfortunately it was really disappointing.  (Just realised how fussy I am when writing this so you may want to try it for yourself.  I am just being honest about our experience and thoughts, you can make up your own mind if you think I'm just being over-critical!)

When we arrived, I was initially impressed with the array of yummy looking Italian goodies as you walk in the door.  The restaurant was more casual than I was expecting, but that's because I didn't really know what to expect - hubby had just said it was 'that Italian guy' off the TV's restaurant and it had recently opened in Glasgow.

Image Source

Unfortunately this good first impression didn't last long as we were greeted and taken to a table with barely a smile and menus were placed on the table as we stood there and the guy just left before we sat.  We were just left standing next to the table dripping wet (the weather has been truly awful lately!).  I was surprised he didn't offer to take our coats, especially as when looking around, Nik could see an area of coat hooks over by the bar, near the kitchen.  Normally this wouldn't bother me at all as I will happily hang my coat on the back of my chair, but I was wearing an extremely bulky, long, wet winter coat and as I was seated on one of those padded benches along a wall, I had nowhere to hang it, so had to sit on it (wet side down of course).  I couldn't even bundle it up beside me as the tables were so close together - something else that annoys me as I feel you can't have a conversation without feeling like there is someone else at your table listening.  God I sound so grumpy already!

We sat down and started perusing the menus.  We had been given a list of specials which were also up on a big board and the usual menus.  It wasn't long before someone came to ask us if we'd like to order a drink which is good, so I ordered a Bellini and Nik had a large glass of Valpolicella.  He also asked for some tap water.  We were asked by our waitress if we would like any bread and olives while we looked at the menu so we ordered the Bread Tin (£3.65) and Puglian Olives (£3.25).

The olives were amazing!  I've never seen olives that vibrant colour of green before and they were HUGE!  (Image via google images as I haven't taken my own this time - felt too self concious being so close to other tables.)

Image source

The bread selection was also very nice, although the sliced bread was very dry (like when you leave the end of the bag open to the air for too long).  £6.90 is pretty steep though for bread and olives!  Our drinks were also nice with the exception of the water.  Now, I know it's just water and we had only asked for tap water so they're not making any money but we had also paid £5.45 for a Bellini and £6.10 for the wine, and it was literally a glass of tepid tap water, no ice, no lemon, not even very cold.  We eat out a fair bit and usually are given a jug with ice or if it's just the 2 of us, glasses with ice and sometimes a slice of lemon which just makes it so much nicer and really doesn't take much.  I personally don't like water unless it's extremely cold and I'm hot (i.e. on holiday) or if it's fizzy and cold.  I do occasionally drink tap water when out (if I am out of wine) but only if it's cold - yes I am fussy!  

What would have been nice 
What we got

Anyway, we perused the menu while enjoying the juicy, fleshy olives and although things sounded nice, the menu didn't really set me alight.  There was nothing that I really thought - Ooh yeh I fancy that, or I would love to try that.  This is unusual for me, I LOVE food and eating out and usually have trouble narrowing down my options (so much so it was even mentioned in our wedding ceremony!)  None of the pasta dishes appealed to me, I was trying to avoid beef since I had been eating chilli for the last 3 days(!) but all the pasta dishes were seafood, red meat or vegetarian.  No chicken dishes at all.  I'm assuming it's maybe not very Italian to use chicken with pasta?  Again I am fussy and don't like seafood in pasta as it invariably has shells still on and I don't like burning my fingers in the sauce and getting messy removing them (impossible to remove prawn shells/tails and mussels without getting saucy fingers in my opinion).  I didn't want beef again and didn't fancy boar or venison (the other meaty options) and I only rarely have a veggie option - I just love meat, especially when out for dinner.

So I ended up choosing the chicken option in the mains list - Pan-fried chicken with a lemon and caper sauce served with green beans (£11.95).  I was asked by the waitress if I wanted Rosemary potatoes or mash on the side as it only comes with beans so I ordered the mashed potatoes (£3.00).  Nik is not ridiculous like me so he ordered the seafood linguine (£10.95).

Image source - Carluccio's Seafood Linguine

It was only after we ordered and were waiting for our food that I noticed most of the tables had a candle in the centre, whereas our line of tables had no candle for some reason which was a shame.  If you're going to add a nice touch, add it to all the tables.

Our food came quite quickly and we were offered black pepper which we both accepted, I had to ask for some on my potatoes.  I wish they did just leave the pepper on the table as I would have liked to add more after tasting it (my potatoes, although a nice texture, tasted entirely bland and unseasoned - not even buttery or creamy and needed a lot of salt adding) but I know most Italian places do that with the pepper.  Nik had to ask for some Parmesan but was then given plenty.  Unfortunately he found that was the only flavour to his dish.  I tasted it also and it simply had no depth of flavour at all - it just tasted of chillies with a very watery sauce which didn't coat the pasta but sat in a puddle underneath.  My chicken was very tasty but nothing special, something I could easily make at home.  When eating in a restaurant, even if I just have something simple, I like to feel that it's better than I would make myself.

I mentioned that I had to add a lot of salt to my mash (and Nik to his pasta) which is better than it being too salty to begin with, but I wish they had a grinder or normal table salt rather than the fancy flakes we had on the table.  Other than the fact it means you need to stick your fingers in the bowl to get some (along with everyone else who wants salt and we all know about the bar nuts/urine ratio don't we??), you then have big crunchy flakes of salt on your food rather than changing the overall flavour.  In the end I enjoyed my mash decanted onto my plate so I could mix it into the yummy sauce.

Image source  - Flaked Salt

The thing that annoyed me the most though was that I had finished my Bellini by the time our food came and was asked if I wanted another drink, which I did, so asked for the menu back.  It was brought to me immediately but rather than wait for my order, the waitress left to return a few minutes later.  I ordered a small glass of Silvium Rose wine (£4.90) and then had to wait what felt like an age until it arrived!  By the time it came, despite me taking a break from eating as I was thirsty (forced to drink the awful water - but it was so awful I just snuck (not a real word but I think it should be) a mouthful of Nik's wine instead), I only had about 3 mouthfuls of dinner left and almost said I didn't want the wine any more.

In summary, we found it to be rather expensive for what it is with all the add-ons included.  Granted we didn't order the cheapest things on the menu and you could just go and have pasta dishes but even the wine was pricey (you could just have the horrid water though).  Our bill came (while I was still trying to finish my wine!) to £38.30 after we used the voucher (would have been £49.25 without).  Neither of us was particularly impressed with the food (except the olives!) and decided against dessert.  It's not a sign of a good meal out if you end up getting dessert from M&S at the train station to take home, but we did enjoy that bit!

We would, however try it again as Nik pointed out it could just have been an off day and he thinks the meatball pasta (my choice if I weren't fed up of beef already) would be good.  He has eaten at Carluccio's in Heathrow before and loved it so we're hoping it will be better next time.  I would go back just for the olives but we'll avoid the pricey bread next time and order our wine waaay in advance!

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