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Carluccio's Upper Street Islington
Member Name: helenc72
Advantages: Good meal deal, reasonable prices, nice atmosphere, good location. good portion sizes
Disadvantages: Some food is a bit plain, not the most unusual or original
Carluccio's is an Italian chain restaurant which I have been to a few times. The one that I have been to the most often is the one in Richmond, but now that I have moved the closest one to me is on Upper Street (Islington) and I went there last night with my sister in law.
--- Location ---
The location of this Carluccio's is good as it is on a very busy and accessible street so it is very easy to get to and is particularly convenient for people who have been doing a bit of shopping on Upper Street or who want some dinner before going to the cinema as there are two cinemas really close by.
The nearest tube is Angel, but Highbury and Islington is not that far either and there are loads of buses which stop fairly nearby, such as the 43 which goes all the way down Upper Street and various others.
--- Atmosphere ---
I like the atmosphere of this Carluccios. Carluccio's restaurants are all decorated differently so even though it is a chain, they do have a certain amount of individuality. This one looks quite homely and traditional as it still has its original shop front from when the building used to be a food store, so it has a kind of magical sweet shop vibe to it from the outside due to the windows and the lights inside! Inside, it looks clean and fresh with wooden floors, light bright wood tables and light walls, but there is also a "red room" at the back with vibrant red walls. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming. It is doesn't seem like the most original restaurant, but it doesn't feel quite as chain-y as the likes of Pizza Express or other well known Italians.
The staff there are friendly and welcoming. We were there on a Thursday night and it was not too packed out, noisy or chaotic at all. It wasn't loud and we got a table straight away.
--- Menu ---
The menu offers more or less what you would expect from an Italian, with the exception that they don't ever seem to do pizza. They have lots of pastas, risotto, ravioli and a few meat and fish dishes as well as lots of salads and sides. The prices are also pretty much what I would consider normal for this type of place, with mains costing around a tenner or a bit more.
We saw yesterday that there was a very good value offer on where you could have two courses for £9.95 and if you want a third, this was an extra £3.50. This was great value, as some of the main courses included in this offer were more than £10 on their own, and the starters generally cost about £5 or £6, and the desserts about £4.50, so we decided to go for this. The only disadvantage of this deal is that only certain meals are included, but that was okay with us as we could each find something we liked on this offer menu.
The wine menu offers a fair amount of different wines and gives prices for small glasses, large glasses or bottles. You can also get prosecco.
There is also a special Christmas menu with seasonal food for the winter season. I had a quick look in it and saw that these meals sounded really nice, like comforting winter food but not too boring, so I might go in and try some later in the year.
--- Our Food ---
I got bruschetta as my starter, and my sister in law got the chicken liver pate.
These starters are pretty big and come on a full sized large plate. I was actually quite full by the time I finished it. My bruschetta had loads of tomato and rocket on it and it tasted flavourful and fresh. My sister in law liked her pate as well, which came in a pot with large pieces of bread to dip. I didn't try it as I'm not keen on pate.
For the main I had penne with spicy sausage. Whenever I've been to Carluccio's in Richmond with my brother he has often ordered this so I thought I would give it a try. My sister in law got ravioli which I think had spinach and ricotta inside. The main portions are also fairly large.
My main tasted nice and it was spicy without being too hot for me to eat. The sausage meat is minced up small, so it doesn't have big chunks of sausage in it. I did feel it was a bit plain and I often cook meals not too dissimilar to this myself at home as it is very quick and easy, so it didn't feel like that much of a treat or special meal really, but I did enjoy it. If I had paid a lot for the meal I might have expected something a bit more special but as it was on such a reasonable priced deal I was happy with it. As I said, it did taste perfectly nice, just not that exciting or unusual.
My sister in law liked her main but I didn't try it so I can't really give my opinion.
We had a bottle of pinot grigio with our meal. This cost about £16 which I thought was not too bad. The wine was easily drinkable as it was really, really light. It was not quite as flavourful as Pinot Grigio normally is, but it was nice enough.
In the end we did decide to get a dessert (they left quite a big gap between starter and main, so I wasn't so stuffed anymore by this point!) I got tiramisu as that's one of my favourite desserts and my sister in law got panacotta. They also have various ice creams and also other desserts, but I think only our ones and ice cream were on the deal.
The desserts are also not skimpily sized and are good portions. My tiramisu was nice, but not the best one I've ever tried. It was very creamy and sweet and the coffee taste did not come across as strongly as it sometimes does elsewhere, but it was enjoyable. We also had a cappucino each and this was good coffee.
In total I think we paid £56 for 3 courses each, olives to share, two coffees and the bottle of Pinot Grigio. I think this is pretty good value.
--- Service ---
The waiter was fine. He checked if our food was okay but was not coming over constantly, which I think is good, as I hate it when you are trying to talk and the waiter just keeps on coming over for more or less no reason! We were there to have a good chat and catch up so I was glad the service was not intrusive. When we wanted to pay the bill was brought without a massive wait.
--- Over all ---
This is a pleasant Italian restaurant if you want a reasonably priced meal in a nice atmosphere and a convenient location if you are in the Upper Street area. The food is not the most amazing or unusual but it is tasty, simple Italian food. I am sure I will go again.
Summary: A nice simple Italian which is good value