With a huge variety of different restaurants to choose from outside the Highcross in Leicester, it’s hard to know where to go. Last week, I visited the wonderful Carluccio’s, who I think is a huge contender for both lunch, and dinner. The intimate setting, low lighting and modern decor of the restaurant makes for a truly wonderful dining experience, and I love the fact that they have a Carluccio’s ‘gift shop’ to the front where you can pick up delicious oils, pastries, breads and so much more.
It is of course an Italian, one of my favourite cuisines being such a carb lover, so I was looking forward to seeing what was on the menu for this Spring. The best thing about Carluccio’s is the flavoursome choices on the menu. I was struggling to choose between the starters, and I opted for an old favourite- calamari! Although a simple dish, it’s quite easy to get calamari wrong. Carluccio’s calamari however was delicious. The perfect crispiness and not a hint of chew in sight. It came with a lemon mayonnaise that worked perfectly with the light batter and subtle flavour of the squid.
My companions opted for ‘Prawns Marinara’ which are marinated prawns (did you see that coming from the name, ha!) in white wine, baby plum tomatoes, chilli and fennel seeds in a tomato and basil sauce and ‘Ravioli Fritti’ which are crispy parcels filled with smoked mozzarella served with a tomato, honey and mustard dressing. These are new to the menu and looked extremely good. Judging by the clear plates after the starters, it was a thumbs up all round so far!
The waitress serving us was lovely. She was friendly and chatty without being intrusive, offering her recommendations on everything from the dishes we asked about to the differences in the coffees. She was a breath of fresh air in fact, as sometimes in the surrounding restaurants of a busy shopping centre, you can find very grumpy servers indeed! For mains, I ordered the mushroom risotto. It was sticky and creamy without being too sickly, a very fine line indeed, but Carluccio’s executed it well. It’s made with just a hint of chilli, which brings an interest kick to an otherwise relatively plain dish. I added a chicken breast to the dish, which you can do for just £2.50 extra. My guests chose ‘Chicken Milanese’ which is a flattened chicken breast crusted in breadcrumbs and fried. What makes this different to similar dishes is the addition of rosemary, a flavour that works exceptionally well with chicken. This came with a side salad.
My second guest ordered the ravioli filled with ricotta and pine nuts in a lemon sauce. This is something I would definitely not have chosen, as I’m not keen on savoury lemon, however I did try a bit as the good reviewer I am and I have to say that the lemon works very well with the slight saltiness of the pine nuts and cheese. The texture was also delicious and I was impressed by how light the ravioli was!
We were beginning to get full, but the desserts called to us. My favourite ever Italian pud is tiramisu, however I was definitely feeling the bloat, so while my guests ordered the quintessential Italian desserts, I opted for gelato in dark chocolate and coffee and hazelnut. Both dishes were perfect. The tiramisu was creamy but not too stodgy. It also wasn’t bitter at all, so is great for people who don’t like coffee- like me weirdly enough. Yes that’s right, I hate coffee but I love coffee flavoured desserts. Go figure. My gelato was divine, and the flavours complimented each other so well. Plus the coldness of the dessert made for a nice palette cleanser indeed.
I would highly recommend a visit to Carluccio’s Leicester, particularly if you want to impress your dinner dates. From the quality of our food to the quality of our service, it was an excellent experience.
9am – 11pm
*Thank you to Carluccio’s for our complimentary meals in exchange for this review. This does not however affect my opinion in any way and I will always be honest and open, no matter the compensation.