When I was at Carluccio’s party for their Christmas 2014 press release recently, it occurred to me that while I frequently speak of my affection for Carluccio’s Caffe and talk about how I always buy their wonderful orrechiette and trofie pasta, have a strong addiction to their Baci di Dama biscuits from Piedmont, and like to buy my olives and many other things from them, I’ve never actually reviewed one of their cafes on the blog. It’s strange because I do actually go to them quite often. Most usually my local branch in Richmond; quite often the Brunswick Centre branch when going to the Renoir Curzon cinema. But one of my favourites is the Covent Garden branch and so when I went there last night, I decided it was definitely time to take a few food photos and write a post on the blog.
On the corner of Garrick Street and King Street, it’s a brilliant location near the Piazza, the Opera House and West End theatres. I was there last night on my way to Wyndham’s Theatre to see the stunning revival of David Hare’s SKYLIGHT with Jonathan and Lyndsey. I saw the original production of the play back in 1995 at the National Theatre and we were all looking forward to seeing this latest production with Carey Mulligan and one of my favourite actors, Bill Nighy. It was all as brilliant as we’d expected, lighting our conversation on the way home as we discussed the play. Jonathan did note in the interval that he was very pleased we’d gone to Carluccio’s for a pre-theatre rather than post-theatre meal for Carey Mulligan cooks a spaghetti dish onstage during the play and the smell of onions, carrots, garlic and chilli enticingly wafts across the auditorium and if you were hungry, I’m sure it might prove a distraction!
One of the things I really love about the Covent Garden Carluccio’s is the building. It’s much bigger than most branches and on two floors. There’s a wonderful staircase leading up to two large dining areas on the first floor, with high ceilings, huge windows, lovely frescoes on walls and a space that fills me with romantic ideas of what a glorious apartment one could make there, right in the heart of Covent Garden. It was light and airy, a calm and welcome escape from the crowded streets and heat outside, and we were given a table by the window looking out on to Garrick Street.
As we were heading to the theatre and had limited time, we decided to have the Menu Fisso at £10.95 for 2 courses, plus an extra £3.50 for a dessert; Sicilian wine is offered with the menu at just £3.95 for a 175ml glass. We weren’t very imaginative in our choice of starters as we all chose Bruschetta with fresh tomatoes on garlicky chargrilled bread. It was delicious.
We were more adventurous with our main courses, each choosing a different one. Jonathan chose Milanese di Pollo, which is his usual choice: some flattened breaded chicken breast with salad.
My choice was Pasta alla Puttanesca: a spicy tomato sauce with olives, capers and anchovies, and one of my favourite pasta dishes. It was really good.
We’d arrived much earlier than planned so had plenty of time … in other words, plenty of time to have dessert too! Lyndsey chose Panna Cotta while Jonathan and I couldn’t resist Tiramisu. It’s one of our favourite desserts and I always use an Antonio Carluccio recipe.
We finished with coffee, and I like Carluccio’s coffee. It has a good flavour and I chose their more robust Napoli blend for an espresso.
The service had been excellent throughout: friendly and efficient. The final bill for the three of us – a 3-course meal plus wine and coffee – came to £60, which is brilliant value. And it was a perfect meal and perfect location for our theatre visit.