Bookings for Carluccio’s had been full from day one, so we were surprised that we could book a table for the Diamond Jubilee Bank Holiday Monday.
At 7pm we promptly arrived. It wasn’t very busy, however, despite four members of staff on the floor it took several minutes for one of them to come over and assist us to our table.
A friendly waitress directed us to a table of two up on the mezzanine area. The decor is typical of Carluccio’s fresh and clean and airy.
As soon as we were seated and the waitress gave us our menus, we were told that there was no pork saltimbocca. This disappointed the bloke as he is rather partial to a good saltimbocca, OK it’s not veal but at least it’s meat! We were then told that the chicken saltimbocca was also off the menu as well as the ribeye steak, rump steak and the mussels!
This was not a good start and I was suitably unimpressed that given it was a bank holiday weekend, they could have expected to have been busy. The odd dish to have run out is always acceptable but this number was verging on the ridiculous, particularly as it only left the bloke with two meat options, chicken Milanese or beef stew.
I did express my disappointment to the waitress at the number of dishes that weren’t available.
Shortly after placing our orders the manager appeared and offered us a bottle of house wine for our inconvenience. Well handled I thought and he couldn’t apologise enough.
We had chosen the Antipasto Massimo to share. To be honest I was a little disappointed with the minute offering of mozzarella and the meat was pretty sparse too. However, they obviously did have plenty of rocket to spare as it liberally bulked out the board of antipasto!
Onto the mains. The bloke as I said had the chicken Milanese which you can’t really go wrong with and was cooked well. I had opted for the Fritto Misto. A large bowl arrived with loads and loads of calamari. There were three small token pieces of seabass and four prawns. The whitebait, I have to say was unrecognisable as whitebait. All the whitebait comprised of was was small broken crumbed bits of whitebait, mostly attached to the calamari and was more likened to deep fried tinned anchovies.
There was no lemon accompanying the dish either. I asked for lemon. This did help a little but the seafood was all very bland and soggy, not nice and crispy as it should be. I then spotted a piece of greasy greaseproof paper at the bottom of the dish. Not very pleasant.
I didn’t eat anymore.
The manager came to clear our plates away and saw that I had left most of my dish. I then pointed out the grease proof paper. The manager claimed that was to soak up the grease…err, the bottom of my dish and it’s contents were greasy as grease proof paper does not absorb grease!!! Not sure he understands that concept. I also pointed out the very sad offering that was interpreted as whitebait. He was very obviously embarrassed.
So not a great first visit to Carluccio’s who replaced the defunct Brasserie Gerrard.
However, the manager did deal with our complaints very well and when we came to pay for the bill not only did we get the free bottle of wine but my dish had been taken off the menu also. I only hope that the feedback does goes back to the kitchen and maybe they need to readdress their ordering system for busy periods.
I will go back as everyone always has off days and I used to enjoy visiting the Carluccio’s in Reading for breakfast and particularly the scrambled egg and sauteed mushrooms on toast.
Here’s to a more pleasing next visit.