REVIEW: Popular with locals, how did Carluccio’s fare with us?

Just opposite Richmond’s train station lies Richmond’s branch of Italian chain restaurant Carluccio’s. Popular with locals perhaps craving a step-up from the lackluster chain restaurant meal, we headed along for a taste of our own.

Our visit coincided with the recent revamping of their menu, which our waitress was keen to emphasise. Chatty and warm, she highlighted what’s new and her personal recommendations before ensuring we felt comfortable and ready for a glass of crisp house white wine.

For a Tuesday afternoon the place was pretty busy but whilst the music attempted to create a little light atmosphere, the decor let it down. A lack of authenticity and a more contemporary, basic furnishing reflects the fact that Carluccio’s is simply a chain restaurant, detracting from the bona fide Italian cafe-deli image they may be attempting to present. The fresh daffodils on tables was a nice springtime touch, however.

Olives to pick at before we enjoyed our starter were unusually hard and lacked succulence but the starters themselves offered more. The aroma alone let us know that we were probably in for a treat and both dishes, the Ravioli Fritti and Sicilian Arancini, were plated well.

The accompanying tomato, honey and mustard dressing added a much-appreciated zing to the moreish Ravioli Fritti and the Sicilian Arancini was generous in size, albeit a little hefty for a starter.

A Chicken Saltimbocca provided a scent worth salivating over and tremendously succeeded in parts, yet failed in others. The rich Vin Santo, sage and cream sauce was delicious, as were the well-seasoned rosemary and garlic roasted potatoes, providing all that can be expected from a Carluccio’s. A dubious mushroom sceptic (fundamental mushroom hater) had their opinion altered after the lashings of sauce truly made an impact, but the rubbery texture of the chicken couldn’t be avoided.

The Duck Pappardelle was a tasty Italian treat that would certainly be enjoyed by all, although the wow factor was notably absent for a dish with so many promising flavours. With duck, pork, pancetta, mushroom and garlic breadcrumb, much was left to be desired as the flavours were lost in the busy commotion of the dish.

Possibly the most exceptional element of the experience was the service. Our initial waitress was lively and eager in her approach, whilst our finishing cocktails (Aperol Spritz & Bellisimo) both arrived and were created simultaneously, with a waiter immersing us in the experience at our table.

Cocktails were accompanied by the unrivaled course of the evening, dessert.

A Chocolate Bread & Butter Pudding excelled in presentation and made for a remarkable end to the meal, whilst the Meringa Al Frutto Della Passione truly exceed expectations: sweet, zesty and fulfilling.

All things considered, Carluccio’s does what it says on the tin. It fails to radically surpass other similar chain restaurants, as the culinary offerings are nothing more than decent, but their service is something to shout about. Quick, inviting and ultimately tailored to your personal needs, it’s certain that they’ll try and ensure you leave with the intention of returning.

Whether you’re stopping for a three course meal or a quick coffee, they’re easy to find, easy to get on with and easy to return to.

Head to Carluccio’s this Mother’s Day for a browse of their exclusive gift range, featuring everything from a vibrant posy of chocolate flowers to the finest olives from Liguria. Also, don’t forget to take a look at their brand new Easter collection!