I suppose it was wishful thinking on our part - attempting to get a table at Jamie's Italian in Canary Wharf on a Friday night. Perhaps on any other occasion, we would have been accepting of the 30-40 minute wait for a table but on that particular Friday night, we were far too hungry to stand around waiting for our remote-control-like devices to beep. We decided to head to Carluccio's for our Italian fix instead.
Carluccio's Canary Wharf
London, E14 5AJ
The thing that strikes you first as you walk into Carluccio's is the feeling of warmth that greets you - the buzz of activity provides a lively atmosphere while still allowing you to enjoy a good conversation. This seems to be the general feel of all of the Carluccio's outlets that I've ever visited.
Penne Giardiniera - Pugliese penne with courgette, chilli and deep fried spinach balls with parmesan and garlic. I decided on this almost immediately, having enjoyed the dish tremendously at the Bicester Village branch. It was love at first bite then - the slight crunch of the spinach-parmesan-garlic balls offset by the soft courgette. While extremely similar to the Bicester Village rendition, the Penne Giardiniera in Canary Wharf didn't quite hit the spot. I cannot put my finger on what exactly was different about it, though. Perhaps bags and bags of shopping make all the difference.
Pasta con Funghi - egg pappardelle with a mix of shiitake, oyster, porcini and button mushrooms. Like the Penne Giardiniera, this dish was ordered based on our visit to the Bicester Village branch. I remember marvelling at the delightful mushroom flavour that was simultaneously strong and subtle.
Bistecca di bue con patate - 10oz bone in rib steak, chargrilled and served with rosemary potatoes and red pepper sauce. After some soul-searching, our meat-lover simply had to order the steak. While he enjoyed the red pepper sauce, he found the steak to be overdone.
Tiramisù - Savoiardi biscuits soaked in strong espresso coffee and coffee liqueur with mascarpone and chocolate. I've always had a very soft spot for tiramisu - the intense flavour of coffee, the creaminess of the mascarpone and the sponge that soaks it all up. Carluccio's does a very good version of this classic. It's definitely worth saving some space for.
For some reason, the Carluccio's in Canary Wharf didn't quite live up to expectations. It might have been the chaos that comes with a Friday night dinner service or simply that the quality of food isn't as good as the Bicester Village branch. Nevertheless, the restaurant is still worth a visit, especially if you stick to the pasta dishes and remember to end your meal with some tiramisu.