Review: Carluccio’s Richmond gets a new look
Art Deco-style furnishings, dim lighting and a slick bar elevates Carluccio’s in Richmond for its relaunch
Founded by the late Antonio Carluccio in Covent Garden 20 years ago this year, Carluccio’s has become a familiar fixture on our high streets, combining café, bakery, deli and restaurant. The brand is now undergoing a makeover, with the Richmond branch the first to be overhauled, with the aim of establishing it as more of a go-to evening destination.
Turning up to the restaurant on an evening in early spring, my friend and I were surprised to see what a facelift the restaurant has had, with a beautiful statement bar, cool Art Deco-style furnishings and dim lighting that has elevated the atmosphere. As with many Italian chains on the higher end of the pricing spectrum, potential punters looking for an evening of Italian food are often tempted to pay similar prices for an authentic experience at an independent. This has long been the problem with restaurants like Carluccio’s and Jamie’s Italian, the latter of which recently befell a series of closures. But this refurb has done much to lift the restaurant and breathe into it a new lease of life. We were ushered to our table by hospitable staff who continued to be impressively attentive throughout the evening. Starting with a bottle of velvety house red wine soothed us into the surroundings.
The menu now features small plates alongside heritage dishes, taken from the late Antonio Carluccio’s first restaurant and deli. For starters, I opted for the burrata. It is a popular starter choice but I justified my decision as something different as it was served with a pea and bean puree. The cheese was typically creamy and the cool mint and pea dip worked nicely as an accoutrement, although I remain convinced that burrata needs a good glug of quality olive oil to bring it to life. My friend had the marinated prawns with baby plum tomatoes in a white wine, chilli and fennel sauce. The sauce was tasty and tangy and we enjoyed the hint of fennel, although the prawns were on the small side to carry such a sea of sauce.
For mains, I chose a seafood linguine with fresh mussels and squid in a crab and chili sauce. The sauce was rich and tasty but again the seafood became lost in the robust flavour, but a good helping of mussels and a large langoustine did make up for it. My friend’s pasta was a slow cooked beef and red wine ragu with salty black olives. The silky ribbons of wide pasta carried the sauce well although my friend was unable to finish her plate because of the dish’s intensity. We left space for dessert, which was a molten chocolate and indulgent pudding fondant with vanilla ice cream. Not quite a brownie, not quite a mouse, it was utterly moreish nonetheless. The tiramisu was your typical concoction of Savoiardi biscuits, espresso, mascarpone and cocoa with coffee flavoured liquor and was delightfully dreamy.
The late Antonio Carluccio cooked with gusto and lived by a staunch motto of ‘minimum of fuss, maximum of flavour’ – a philosophy which may have been slightly lost with the dishes we tried, which were certainly enjoyable, but seemed to be lacking that stripped back flavour that comes with simple Italian cooking. Overall though, it’s great to see the brand being given such a glamorous update and it will be interesting to see how it all plays out as a new dining destination.