I spend quite a lot of time in various Carluccio’s Caffes – though mainly my local Richmond branch. I buy most of my pasta there (especially my favourite orecchiette), polenta, olives, panettone at Christmas, colomba at Easter and wonderful baci di dama biscuits (to which I am seriously addicted). I probably meet friends there for lunch more than any other place and am often found in the Covent Garden and Bloomsbury branches as well as local Richmond, but Kingston and Cobham too. I’ve even been to an opera evening – live singing – while you eat a set menu at Wimbledon. What I like – apart from the fact that they’re Italian and serve lovely Italian food – is that Carluccio’s Caffe fits the bill for any time of day. I love their croissants for breakfast and although I normally eat croissants on their own, I can’t resist asking for some of their fabulous fig jam to go with them. And, of course, a morning kick-start of punchy Napoli coffee (although there’s always the option of the softer Milano blend). For lunch or supper there are various salads or you could go the whole way with a plate of pasta (I often choose their lasagna with a side of rocket and Parmesan salad) or a Secondi of branzino – sea bass – or maybe Veal Saltimbocca. One of my favourite things to do at lunchtime is share an Antipasti plate with a friend and some of their excellent focaccia. But now with these gorgeous new sharing plates there are more options for a light meal – lunchtime or early evening with a drink – and so maybe I’ll have to go to Carluccio’s even more often!!
Well, OK. I think I’ve made the point that I’m a bit of a Carluccio’s fan. But now you can see that I was truly very excited to be invited by them to an event to launch their new Sharing Plates at the Covent Garden (one of my favourites) restaurant last night. It was a perfect evening to go for cocktails and sharing plates. It had been the warmest April day for 4 years and felt like summer. The Covent Garden Carluccio’s is quite a big one and I was directed upstairs to the nicest room with its bright, airy ceiling, big windows and pretty frescoes on the walls.
The room was full of other foodie people and I was immediately welcomed and offered a glass of a simple cocktail of prosecco and limoncello. It was delightfully refreshing.
A table in the middle was filled with large plates of the new ‘sharing plates’:
A large ham was being sliced in front of us for the antipasti to be regularly replenished.
All dishes were regularly replenished. We weren’t going to run out of food! When a new dish of little red peppers filled with tuna was brought, we were told they were quite spicy.
They were – I love chilli and these had quite a hit but were really delicious. There were delicious Polpette – meatballs with tomato sauce:
And lovely Bruschettine topped with either tomatoes & peppers or goats’ cheese & onion jam:
And irresistible grilled prawns:
There was a cheese board full of different Italian cheeses, a whole Parmesan in the centre to cut into and take chunks, wonderful arancini oozing with melted mozzarella, skewers of mozzarella and cherry tomatoes. As for drink, there was plenty of wine or more prosecco but I was drawn to the far end of the room where Federico was mixing some Peroni cocktails. Try one, he urged, as he put a Peroni La Piazza before me.
I’m so glad he did. It was wonderful and perfect for the warm evening: ice-cold Peroni with some bitterness from Angostura balanced with lime juice and ginger spices. I was at the party for quite some time and talked to some lovely bloggers and other people interested in food. When I decided to leave and make my way home, I was given a goody bag by Abbey – part of the team who’d arranged the evening. Then on the train home I saw on Twitter that I’d missed dessert! Shock! Too late to go back but I obviously need to go back to a Carluccio’s soon to make up for it!
However, opening my goody bag at home almost made up for it:
And anyway, I’m back at Carluccio’s Richmond on Monday lunchtime to meet a friend to celebrate my birthday … and since a birthday definitely means a treat then I’ll have to have dessert!!
te te I’m