Founded by it’s namesake Antonio Carluccio on the values of honest, quality Italian cuisine, Carluccio’s has become a long favoured choice of mine. Often it is my ideal selection for a spot of lunch. Thus on a hot and humid Friday afternoon my Dining Partner (the same awesome one from the trip to The Alchemist) and I settled in for an afternoon of delicious food and juicy conversation.
Carluccio’s is nestled away at the top of Trinity Leeds, offering relaxed dining both inside and outside of the restaurant. We opted for the latter choosing to sit on a long sofa bench with chairs opposite. The atmosphere was very serene and much what I have come to expect of this Italian chain, with it having more of the feel of a family restaurant.
Whilst getting comfortable we accepted the offer of bread to eat as we mused the menu. The Home Baked Focaccia was a very generous potion and came with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dip. The bread tasted exceptionally fresh, with a sprinkling of sea salt. It was used as a tear and share, with us both ripping off pieces and dipping them as the conversation flowed, the piece lasting long into our main course.
For the main course I opted for Pappardelle Con Pollo, a light chicken and mushroom dish. Delicate ribbons of pappardelle were interspersed with chicken and a delightful sauce. The chicken was moist, coated in the crème fraîche and white wine sauce that finished with a slight kick of garlic. A wonderful variety of mushrooms were peppered throughout the dish along with pine nuts. As well as the usual button mushrooms there were also shiitake and oyster mushrooms, two types which I don’t have the pleasure of eating all to often. All in all it was a very delicious dish, which I would be happy to order again.
My Dining Partner selected the Goat’s Cheese & Beetroot Salad, something which I myself had been eyeing up on the menu. The cheese was a rich and smooth contrast to the crunchy salad and walnuts in the dish, it all being brought together with a yoghurt dressing. Personally I would have liked a little more beetroot but she was very pleased with her choice, finding it thoroughly tasty.
Our mains had been served in good time, not too fast as I find can sometimes be the case in Italian restaurants. Never once did we feel rushed during our meal, no one was hurrying to take our plates away as soon as cutlery had been laid down, swiftly ushering in the next course before the previous one had even settled. I very much prefer a more relaxed pace of service when I am dining as it helps make the experience that much better.
To finish my meal I opted for a Chocolate and Salted Carmel Sundae, a choice which had been made before we even entered the restaurant. The vanilla ice cream was smooth, a light treat and came drizzled with both chocolate and salted caramel sauces. Crushed Amaretti biscuits brought a little extra decadence with the strong taste of liquor adding depth to the dish. If anything I might have wished for more sauce, however the amount given allowed for the heavenly taste of the ice cream not to be overlooked. The portion size was perfect, any larger and I may have struggled to finish it.
A Crostata Al Limone was the dessert of choice for my dining partner. She found it to be have an exceptional lemon taste, a sweet way to cleanse palate after our lunch. It did look a little lacking on the plate and perhaps could have done with a garnish or coulis.
Aside from H2O, the only thing we drunk were Summer Garden mocktails. A delicious blend of apple juice, elderflower, a mint infused Limonata and a cucumber slice (which appeared in our second round), served on ice. Each having two rounds of these, they were the ideal and refreshing accompaniment to the meal, a cool antidote for the midday heat.
Throughout the duration of our meal we were waited on by Sonia, and I mean waited on. Apart from being beautiful with a Spanish accent to match she was ever so polite, patient and attentive for the entire two hours in which we stayed. She was happy to give us additional time to choose our dishes offering suggestions (and help with pronunciation!) when it was needed. I was appreciative that she allowed our meal to be a casual affair, letting my Dining Partner and I converse at length between courses.
I would consider the pricing to be spot on with both mains and desserts costing around £10 and £5 respectively. £2.75 for the focaccia and four Summer Garden mocktails brought the bill total to £49.70. Overall the meal was good value, matching the price you might find in other chain restaurants, though excelling them in many ways.
I fully enjoyed everything about my latest experience with Carluccio’s from the location and dishes we were served right through to the service and company in which I ate. I know food snobbery exists, and many would turn their nose up as it is a chain, however Carluccio’s exemplifies in the best of what you would expect in an independent restaurant excelling at service, quality and taste. If you’re now tempted for a visit you can view their menus online here.