After a glorious day of sunshine and warmer than average temperatures Saturday felt more like the Mediterranean than Cardiff.
People were donning their shorts and maxi dresses and rushing around the shops in an attempt to find out whether or not the latest spring collections included sandals.
My sister and her boyfriend were paying me a weekend visit and in true British style we followed suit and spent the afternoon relaxing under a parasol sipping cocktails.
Next came the conundrum: where shall we eat? In a second we decided. With the weather making us feel like we were in South Europe, some Mediterranean cuisine was the only thing for us. Carluccio’s it was.
I don’t normally like restaurant chains but having been to Carluccio’s in Covent Garden and Cardiff a number of times, I have never had a bad meal.
On entering, there is a little deli section where you can buy a range of Italian delights including, pasta, bread, cheese, wine, biscotti, a range of condiments and recipe books fronted with the round smiling face of the chain’s founder Antonio Carluccio.
The restaurant on arrival was bustling, with a few larger tables for parties. The glass doors at the end of the venue were propped open and people were dining alfresco under parasols and heated lights.
This is a lovely idea, especially in the summer months. However, as it is still only March, the temperatures by 8.30 had dipped and being seated just opposite the open door proved a little too cool for my liking.
The chain says its aim is to allow informal but excellent service to customers and this proved correct, as the waiting staff acquiesced and closed the door for me. Our waiter was always on hand giving us advice and checking our food was to our satisfaction.
The chain says another aim is to provide great quality, authentic Italian food at sensible prices. It certainly achieves this with no pasta dish over £10 and no main over £15.
Firstly, we ordered drinks. I settled on a bottle of red wine to share. The Montepulciano from the Adriatic Coast of Abruzzo, at £14.50 a bottle was delicious. It was deep in colour, full bodied and had spice notes.
My sister had a glass of Silvium, a rosé wine exclusively imported from Puglia for Carluccio’s. At £6.40 for a large glass, this rosé grown from Montepulciano grapes in Gravina was perfect for my taste. I don’t like sweet, sickly rose wines and this was quite rich, dry and a little fruity.
For my starter I had the mozzarella dell’isola. It contained three slices of roasted pepper which were lovely and sweet. Nestled inside the peppers was melting milky buffalo mozzarella. The peppers were settled on a bed of rocket with three slices of parma ham and drizzled with olive oil. The starter was perfectly light, typically Italian, simple and delicious.
After such a sunny day and a number of calorific cocktails I wanted a light main. I settled for the Milanese di pollo, a flattened chicken breast, bread crumbed and fried accompanied by a green salad. It was simple but delightfully executed, the chicken wasn’t greasy but extremely succulent.
A squeeze of lemon on the chicken and rocket provided all the flavouring this simple dish needed.
The best part of the meal however, was the accompaniment I ordered. The fagliolini – green beans cooked in garlic and mint, were divine. They were cold but had a fresh crunch and the flavour was fantastic.
All in all, with drinks, three starters, three mains and two side orders, the meal came to just over £80. This was extremely reasonable for just over £25 per head as we had a delightful evening.
Once again Carluccio’s impressed.