Having just moved to the area, I wanted to show my parents around West Bridgford in Nottingham; Central Avenue, the main high street, is teeming with shops, bars and restaurants, so with a day off work and a Mother’s Day meal on the cards, we set out in search of a lunchtime offering. With one vegetarian and one (occasional) pescatarian in tow, we have to be pretty menu-conscious when we go out to eat, so knowing that Carluccio’s always tends to have options to suit us all, we decided on there.
Despite it being a Friday lunchtime, the restaurant was buzzing with people. I have a rather niche preference of liking an atmosphere but disliking people, and this place surprisingly suited me down to the ground thanks to the really spacious layout – allowing for a lull of background noise that doesn’t interrupt your own conversations.
Service was positively sparkling; our main waiter was beaming, polite and eager to help, if not a bit flirty with my mother (I’ve got my eye on you two…). Drinks came quickly and our food did too – a selection of breads to start (and subsequently dunk in leftover sauces) and a tomato bruschetta; an array of colourful and beautifully seasoned tomatoes atop a perhaps too-large slice of toast. Our mains soon followed.
Let’s start with my parents’ dishes. My dad ordered off the lunchtime menu, which offers two courses for £11.95 – a serious bargain considering many mains come in at around £15 each. Along with the bruschetta starter, he also had a pasta dish: the Penne Regine Alla Norma, which is a tomato-based Sicilian dish with aubergines and ricotta.
Big pasta needs a big sauce to complement it, and this delivered; salty olives paired with rich tomatoes created a vibrant sauce, so flavoursome that each pasta ‘tube’ only needed a thin coating to make it zing. It was a generous portion but my dad quickly polished it off, which probably says more than my words do.
Next up was my mum’s food. Though she always eats veggie at home, she’ll very occasionally order fish when we go out to eat, and this time she went for the Merluzzo e Lenticchie – pan-fried cod with potatoes, a lentil stew and veg, topped with salsa verde.
The fish was a melt-in-your mouth, fall-off-your-fork kind of soft, which is exactly what cod should be. Beneath it were lentils that were earthy and rustic without feeling stodgy or grainy, and on top was the zingy salsa verde which lifted the palette. Like my dad, my mum cleared her plate – and for someone with a small appetite, that’s saying a lot!
Having eaten vegan here on my last visit, I wanted to try something non-veggie this time round. I decided on the Seafood Linguine – pasta tossed in an array of sea creatures including clams, mussels and prawns, and topped with ‘bottarga’ (salted fish roe).
Now, I haven’t eaten seafood for the last few months, and maybe my tastebud sensitivity is heightened as a result – but this was just far too fishy for me. It permeated everything, and yes for something that has ‘seafood’ in its name you’d perhaps expect that, but it was simply overpowering.
The tomato sauce was minimal, which meant the shellfish wasn’t able to soak up any other flavour, and I was disappointed that the crab was only a part of said sauce and not an actual meaty addition (although a closer consultation of the menu would have told me as much – I’m just moaning). It’s hard to determine whether this was just a case of personal preference or whether this was a dish that wasn’t executed well – but let’s just say I was left with major plate envy. Gutted!
While I really didn’t rate my meal, the rest of the food was to a good standard, the wine was good and we were well looked-after – and for a chain restaurant, can you really ask for much more?