Putney Wharf, London, SW15 2JQ
Tel: 020 8789 0591
Fax: 020 8789 8360
Open: Mon-Fri 8-11, Sat 9-11, Sun 9-10.30
Nearest Tube: Putney Bridge/ Putney BR
Average price per person: £25 for 3 courses including a glass of wine
The Other Hag summed it up for me nicely. The first time was wonderful. The second visit was utterly atrocious. The third time was to reassure ourselves that the second visit was just the cook having a lousy day – food was still woefully abysmal. The fourth time – well, we decided to give Carluccio the benefit of the doubt. Just because one branch can’t lift its game doesn’t mean other branches should be condemned into oblivion. We’d give it another whirl. The thing with restaurant/café chains, it’s hard to maintain consistency in the quality of cooking. Having said that – McDonalds and Burger King seem to be doing quite nicely, thank ya very muchly.
The entrance is very impressive with their delicatessen setting the tone for the rest of the restaurant. Chic and trendy. Traditional, authentic Italian products line the shelves irresistibly. You have pasta from Puglia, olive oil from Sicily, risotto rice from Veneto, biscotti from Tuscany. Of course Carluccio plugs his own line of cookbooks in handy paying distance – wouldn’t expect anything less, I would too. To the front you can buy fresh antipasto ingredients, meat balls, cooked chicken pieces, custard and lemon tarts.
We were seated outside as it was one of those sultry summer evenings perfect for Putney people watching. There are quite a few bars around and there were plenty of people chilling, chatting and savouring their beers. We were able to order promptly but it did take some time for our orders to arrive.
Their menu pretty much remains a constant force in all Carluccio branches. Two soups and one daily special feature at £3.95 each. The Antipasti selection is quite broad including various antipasto dishes, deep fried rice balls, grilled sardines, bruschetta, parma ham. These range from £4.25 to £9.95.
A modest range of salads are on offer – garden, calamari, pasta, mozzarella with tomatoes, tuna with cannellini beans are all mostly £6.25.
Mains cover ribeye steak, lamb steak, sword fish, lasagne, risotto, calzone and a whole range of pasta dishes – all cooked in the traditional way. Prices range from £6-£11.
Desserts along with their starter and antipasti could be there forte. Sorbets, gelato, tiramisu, torte, panna cotta, cheeses all sound delectable at £3.25 to £5.25.
A decent range of wines range from £2.85 - £5.50 for a glass and £10.95 - £23 for a bottle.
The prince consort and I had the Insalata Di Fagliolini e Calamaretti (£6.25) which was a generous sized portion of squid marinated in red wine with new potatoes, green beens and sundried tomatoes. The combination worked well together but somehow lacked any real pizzazz or oomph. I felt I wanted to add more pepper and salt to make it tastier.
The Other Hag had the fabulous Antipasto Di Verdure (£6.75) which was probably the wisest move of the whole table. It consisted of sweet roasted halved peppers filled with pesto, roasted tomatoes, olives and a refreshing green bean salad with mint. A fantastic combination. A perfect summery dish.
It all fell through for The Man. He was cozened into the same snare as I had (the last three times). Whenever I see the description Zuppa Di Punghi Con Pancetta (£3.95) – a rich soup of mushrooms with bacon I instantly dream of a large comforting bowl of silky hot soup with a medley of exotic fungi. You don’t expect to find a tepid bowl of salty, dilute soup. No siree. This was exactly how it was on this occasion. Actually on the last visit to the St Christopher’s Place branch (off Oxford St) the same soup tasted like a reckless, high on crack individual had accidentally tipped a whole bag of salt into it. It was inedible. Thinking back…I should have sent the soup back. But two years ago I wasn’t as confident (or demanding) as I am today. So the morale of this sad tale is DON’T ORDER THE SOUP. They are clueless.
The Man also ordered the Penne Giardiniera (£6.50). It looked quite unusual when it came. Interesting presentation. Spinach balls were deep-fried with parmesan and garlic. It looked like one of those tumble-weeds out of a great western flick. I half expected a Lilliputian version of Clint Eastwood to swagger out into the centre of the dish and hurl penne at us. Despite its attempts to avert our attention, the balls did indeed taste like tumble-weed and the penne was bland.
Definitely a hit and miss kind of place when it comes to eating good food. We keep on coming back again (at infrequent intervals) because the prices are very reasonable with a great atmosphere to boot. Service could be better though. This probably is like most places that hide behind the name of a celebrity chef. Ronald McDonald and his side kick Grimace are more likely to be caught flipping burger patties than Carluccio making it in especially to toss your salad.
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