As you enter any Carluccio’s you are faced with a shop full of wonderful Italian goodies. Coffee, chocolates, wines, biscotti, cakes, olive oils etc., They all look so good you want to buy each and every one of them to take home. This was our first visit to Carluccio’s in Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth, which is relatively new, although we have been to their Brighton branch a couple of times in the past and also more recently Chichester (which is right next door to Attibassi where I buy my coffee from) and Heathrow’s Terminal 5.
The FB Pocket Orchestra were playing there that evening, which was the main reason for our visit. I had asked for a seat near them so we could see and hear them play. We were greeted by very friendly staff and we were indeed sat very close to them, although they were partially hidden from view from everyone, in a corner behind a pillar. No matter, we could still hear them and they were splendid as per usual. Upon our table was a bottle of red wine, a merlot/cab.sav/sangiovese, a tad expensive but which I was given a sample of to try. It was really good, full bodied which is how I like it, so we ordered a bottle. This was a good ploy.
The place was dimly lit, so of course, the photos aren’t the best – I still haven’t really learnt how to use the camera in soft light, even though I’ve been shown by my son on numerous occasions. The restaurant was well set out, much better than the previous owners, Fire & Stone which resembled a work’s canteen. We’d been on one occasion and never returned. The place looked so much better and felt cosy and warm with photos of Italy upon the walls, large ones too taking up almost an entire wall with Florence and another of Lucca, both favourite places of ours which we’ve been to on numerous occasions. My son Peter cycled to both from home, alone and also loved them.
Our waitress was lovely, friendly and helpful. There were plenty of dishes to choose from plus a ‘chef’s specials’ menu.
We started with the savoury bread tin which included focaccia, Italian flatbread, breadsticks, bruschetta and aniseed bread. All very nice and fresh. This was served with olive oil & balsamic vinegar.
We decided to share both of our starters. The Chicken Liver Pâté was wonderfully smooth, light and creamy. This was served with toasted ciabatta bread and a sweet onion relish.
The Pepolata Arancini (crispy fried risotto balls) were lovely and hot with a red pepper sauce. Again very nice, although I think on my next visit I would go for the pâté as it was just that little bit tastier.
Brasato di Manzo is fork-tender slow cooked beef served with celeriac & carrot puree, garnished with crispy sage leaves. When it arrived at first I was quite surprised at the size of the portion. It looked rather small, especially for the price. But as I tucked into it I found it quite filling.
I ordered a side of Rosemary potatoes with sage and they were very nice too. The beef dish was very tender and the purée was tasty but rather salty I must say. I had to have lots of wine to quench my thirst 😉
Geoff loved his Spaghetti Carbonara – he has this every time he goes to an Italian restaurant so I suppose he could be a bit of an expert on it. It had ‘substantial pieces of bacon in it‘.
Dolce do Cioccolato, a warm chocolate pudding baked with almonds and kahlua and served with vanilla ice cream. The pudding was lovely and chocolatey with ground almonds but not too almondy though, which was good.
Geoff’s Pasticcio di Cioccolato, warm chocolate bread & butter pudding with vanilla cream (custard).
Instead of an espresso which I normally finish off my meals with, I had Cioccolata Fiorentina which is a thick Florentine drinking chocolate served in an espresso cup. It was delicious, not too sweet and was so thick that my spoon stood up in it. My good Italian friend Catia recently brought me back some Lindt sachets of the same. Yum.
Amb : 8 (10 if you take into account that the Orchestra were there)
On our way to Australia recently to visit Helen, Geoff and I decided to have a cake and a drink at their branch in Heathrow’s Terminal 5. We each had a latte (although I had asked for a flat white), rich roast for me and smooth for Geoff. Quite apt haha. Well, I’m not rich but I do sometimes seem to have expensive tastes.
I had Pastiera de Grana which was a sort of little tart with a cross on it with ricotta, cinnamon etc., a kind of Italian Easter cake. The waitress was very friendly and I explained which cake I wanted and tried to pronounce it – I must work on that. Ah she says does it have x on it? Yes it does I say. She came back with a little individual cupcake with eggs on it. Lost in translation 🙂 The pastry surrounding the tart was lovely and fresh and the centre was quite unusual but tasty. A bit too much orange peel for me though. Geoff had a very nice tart au citron. Again the service was very good and friendly.
I must add that upon our return from holiday we visited the Chichester branch for lunch. Geoff had his carbonara and I had penne with a tomato and sausage sauce which was on the specials menu, two courses for £10.99 and add £3.50 for a third course. We felt a little rushed and were in and out within an hour, service was ok, not great and coffee wasn’t offered so we didn’t bother asking. We didn’t have to ask for the bill, it was given to us as the dessert plates were cleared away. A bit of a disappointment after our other two experiences.
Living life, loving cake