Sunday 9 September 2012

Carluccio's Restaurant, Glasgow

We went to Carluccio's for lunch on a Saturday. It's been there some time but this was my first visit, fearing their domination I try to avoid giving chains my money. In fact, I'd been trying to do just that at Robert Graham, an independent purveyor of whisky and cigars directly opposite the eponymous Italian's Italian. Unfortunately the lights were on but no-one was home. No sign, no explanation. So hungry and loose ended we crossed the road to Carluccio's, lured by a board reading 'Menu Fisso'.

I met Carluccio, or Antonio to give him his first name, once, briefly and he seemed like a very nice man. Frankly he must be, otherwise long before they'd finished filming the first episode he'd have murdered fellow Greedy Italian, Gennaro Contaldo, the world's most hyperactive pensioner.

My problem with Caluccio isn't his personality, it's his fingers. Ever since childhood the sight of chubby pensioner fingers fondling food has ruined my appetite. The worst offender, when still with us, was the dead Fat Lady. With gay abandon she'd plunge her podgy, inherited ring clad digits into all manner of doughy matter before serving up to an endless procession of unknowingly enthusiastic emergency service crews.

Clearly there was a lot of internal wrestling going on during that dash across the street. Still, everyone has their price and on this particular day it seems mine was £9.95. Anyhow, there are now forty-five Carluccio's restaurants across the UK, that's a lot of dough, so I'm guessing Tony don't knead it no more.

The place was busy, we were told we could wait for a table or have a stool at the 'bar without a bar'. I was seated before she'd finished the sentence, freed from the clutter of drinking ephemera this barless bar provides a bird's eye view of the restaurant's diners and I'd never seen so many healthy looking people assembled in one place in Glasgow. It would seem this is where the council tax dodgers of Newton Mearns and Milngavie nibble during a break from refreshing their wardrobes after a month in Provence.

The wine list is concise, well chosen and mark-ups are reasonable. The glasses are the sort you want to drink from, not those pub style, molded, dishwasher friendly goblets beloved of lazy staff and margin obsessed managers across this city. We took up the Menu's offer to 'add a glass of Sicilian Sicani white wine for £3.25'. Crisp and fresh it made the perfect aperitif.

There's not a lot of choice on the Menu Frisso. The chicken liver pate tasted like it had been 'lengthened' with the addition of milk or even water. As a result it was a lot less rich and all the better for it. The brushetta was exactly what it said it was. Tomatoes, roasted peppers, basil and olive oil on toasted bread. Tasty.

Our main courses were good. Spinach and ricotta ravioli came with a bit of the cooking water mixed into the butter. I liked that, some people won't, though the sage could have been fried a little harder in the butter first. The 'Milanese' had cheaper chicken substituted for veal but was well executed none the less. Japanese panko style crispy bread crumbs giving way to still moist, tender chicken. All of this was washed down with a very nice glass of Valpolicella.

The food isn't exactly cutting edge, even from the carte, but overall this was a thoroughly enjoyable, metropolitan experience for Glasgow. Service was fast, efficient, friendly and reassuringly confident in a way that suggests they're actually training their staff. Also, crucially and unusually for such a large operation, all the tips go to the staff. In short, an excellent lunchtime venue for hungry people and if you enjoy a decent glass of wine at a fair price, it's even better.

Click here for the Carluccio's Glasgow website

Carluccio's on Urbanspoon

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