Be honest. When you’re deciding where to go out to dinner, it’s likely you’ll go back to an old favourite. Sometimes asking your partner the question “where shall we go to eat?” is almost quite pointless as you both know where you’re going to end up. This is most certainly true of Matt and I. We find comfort in returning to restaurants we have tried and tested, even if the excitement of a new menu is no longer there. I like remembering how much I loved a certain dish and look forward to having it again. After all, nobody likes to be disappointed.
So when the Carluccio’s in Peterborough invited us to try their new summer menu, I was intrigued to try somewhere new, especially as an Italian is never really somewhere that we would first and foremost choose to go. After one serious heat wave of a day, we found ourselves greeted warmly before being led to our cosy table where we were handed menus to pour over. Admittedly, I’d already looked at the menu online yet still couldn’t decide straight away and spent time umming and ahhing over the vast options while Matt sipped his Bellini, content with his own choices.
All dishes combined honest, authentic Italian food. We were surprised to see not a scrap of pizza on the menu although strangely this did not disappoint us. For someone like Matt who would often just go straight for a calzone, he was almost forced to look at other options. I found it interesting that there were as many starter options as main meals although I certainly wasn’t complaining as I am a huge fan of antipasti, thick bread and cheese! While I went with Chicken Liver Pate, Matt quickly decided on Prawn Marinara. Whatever we chose was bound to have bread. We were impressed with how quickly our starters were laid out in front of us but grateful to dig in. I adored how smooth and creamy the pate was and it has most definitely shot to my top 3 (yes, I have a problem!). I tend to avoid the chutneys that are often accompanied with pate but on this occasion, I actually found myself enjoying the addition of the red onion marmalade which added a glorious tang to the velvety pate. Matt’s marinara was full of flavour with a touch of heat with the grilled cibatta complimenting the dish perfectly.
“I shouldn’t go for the steak, for the sake of the blog. I always go for steak!” I told Matt when picking our mains. He shrugged back at me as I poured over the choices. It split neatly into Pasta, Veg, Meat & Fish and Deli Salads. Despite dithering over the carbonara I found myself constantly pulled back to the ribeye steak and shamefully put in my order. Surprisingly, it was the potatoes that confirmed I had made the correct decisions. Rosemary and garlic, they were crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, the literal definition of perfection. I could easily have eaten a whole bowl of just those bad boys.
The steak too was cooked just as I had instruction, medium to well done and full of flavour, there was simply no need for peppercorn sauce. At 8oz it was a generous size that Matt happily ended up helping me out with. His own dish was a heavenly bowl of piled up Beef Ragu Linguine, topped by crispy prosciutto and parmesan. When I eventually managed to snaffle a forkful from him, part of me was jealous of the soft pasta and sweet, juicy ragu. It was what my Italian Stepdad would call “proper Italian pasta.” Alongside this, Matt ordered garlic focaccia which smelt incredible but I was far too full to even nibble. I now dream of that garlic bread and the missed opportunity – I will have it one day!
Dessert was probably the only part of the meal that didn’t really do anything for me. While this was somewhat surprising as dessert is basically my favourite meal – this was on an entirely personal level as there were plenty of options, just none that particularly appealed to me. I love chocolate but the only real option was the Chocolate & Rum Fudge Cake which would have been ideal had it not been for the rum! That said, Matt chose the cake and I desperately wished it didn’t have rum because it was such a velvety slab of goodness that would ordinarily have been right up my street.
You are able to choose someone from the deli instead and after having a mooch (more below!), I selected the brownie which was brought over with a ball of vanilla ice cream. It was a generous sized portion but I found it quite hard work as a dessert because you were using a spoon to try and dig portions off. This might have been a different story should it have been warmed up but unfortunately this option wasn’t made available although in hindsight, I should perhaps of asked the lovely staff. While I left quite a lot of the brownie, we’d both ordered coffees to finish off the meal: Matt an Expresso and a Latte for me. We’d been given the choice of hard or smooth beans and my smooth latte was absolutely perfect in every way, probably the best I’ve actually had in fact.
What I hadn’t actually realised was that a lot of the Carluccio’s actually have deli’s where you can purchase authentic Italian ingredients such as olive oils and vinegars, bread, chocolate and biscuits. I thought this was a great way for customers to bring part of the restaurant home with them and add a touch of italy into their own home cooking. Like the brownie I had chosen for my dessert, there were other sweet treats you could purchase to take away with you like cakes and spectacular meringues as big as my head. You could also peruse the cookbooks of the Antonio Carluccio (who my Mum adores) if you fancied trying out some of his recipes.
I’d love to know if you’ve ever eaten at Carluccio’s and what you thought. For us, it was a different kind of meal to what we would usually go for but we were thrilled with the experience. Our waiter Norbert was friendly and attentive and the other staff we also met couldn’t do enough for us. So if you are anywhere near a Carluccio’s (there are a lot of ’em!) and fancy a bite to eat which won’t break the bank and tastes bloody delicious, I’d thoroughly recommend checking out the menu.
*We were gifted our meal in exchange for this review. All opinions are 100% my own. You can read more on my disclaimer here.