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Carluccios Restaurant Tunbridge Wells
Member Name: silaurblue
Date: 28/10/12, updated on 28/10/12 (16 review reads)
Advantages: Authentic Italian good quality food, excellent service, child friendly.
Disadvantages: Can be noisy, limited range of puddings (that is the Italian way though)
There has been a Carluccios in Tunbridge Wells for at least ten years in the same place. I had my 30th birthday in there (I am now 37) which was so diastrous I didn't step foot in there for about 5 years! In that time the chain was sold, with Antonio Carluccio staying on as a consultant.
I have started venturing back in there in the last couple years after my mother (who is never slow in the complaining department!) started raving about the place. I was pleasantly surprised. The layout and decor had altered, and the food and service had massively improved.
The décor in Carluccio's is light and bright - pale wooden floors, chairs and tables. On the far wall is bright blue banquette style seating underneath huge pictures of Italian scenery/dishes. The tables are spaced closely together which does have a hint of school canteen about it. Consequently, the place can become rather noisy at peak times, being one of the most popular eateries in Tunbridge Wells. It is also popular with families and as a result I wouldn't recommend it as the best place for a romantic lunch, although evenings are obviously quieter.
Carluccios offers a very authentic Italian menu with the notable exception of Pizza. If Pizza is your thing there is a whole plethora of other Italian restaurants in Tunbridge Wells. Given the sheer number of Italian restaurants in Tunbridge Wells I find the lack of pizza quite refreshing! Starters range from Mezze style (Stuzzichini) nibbles including olives and focaccia to soup and antipasti sharing platters.
I love the range of main courses in Carluccios. The emphasis is on freshness and flavour. Of course there is a huge range of quality pasta dishes including Ravioli, Linguine and Tortellini. However some of my favourite dishes are the seafood dishes including Fritto Misto which consists of calamari, whitebait, prawns and sea bass dusted in flour,golden fried and served with garlic mayonnaise. Other favourites include Milanese di Pollo (flattened chicken breast in breadcrumbs) and an excellent steak dish. Sides dishes I would recommend include spinach with garlic (I could happily eat a bowl of this on its own) and rosemary potatoes.
Puddings are generally Italian staple dishes including Panna Cotta with candied orange, Tiramsu and of course various ice creams. Personally I would recommend the Panna Cotta, the other puddings are of a good standard, although not outstanding.
As already mentioned the restaurant is popular with families and Carluccios offers a good quality children's menu which includes a small jigsaw, Italy related worksheet/menu and coloured pencils. My daughter always opts for the lasagne which is very good quality. For pudding she usually chooses a watermelon sorbet which has a fantastic refreshing flavour.
Service is generally excellent and we always recognise the waiters and waitresses, as there doesn't appear to be the high turnover of staff which you find in some restaurants. The waiters/waitresses have aways been friendly and accommodating.
Carluccios has never been the cheapest of the chain restaurants on the high street, but I don't feel the charges are unreasonable for the standard of food. There is generally a set menu offered which is good value. In addition, the end of the meal you are generally offered a card to fill out leaving your home address and email address to join the Carluccio newsletter. I have been sent offers through in the post including a free bottle of house wine with any main meal which have been welcome!
Summary: Bored with pizza and wanting a family friendly authentic Italian experience?