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Carluccio's

Gordo visits Carluccio's at the Trafford Centre

Written by . Published on April 10th 2007.


Carluccio's

Gordo took his little pal Winker to Carluccio's in the Trafford Centre on Good Friday for a quick spot of lunch.

Gordo had gone to one of the first Carluccio's, many years ago, in Bond Street in London. It was good. This one has been watered down – obviously we’re not ready yet to get the real thing. Bit silly this, as Marco Pierre White, Nico Ladenis and Gary Rhodes amongst others, have found to their cost. Us Northerners don’t like being patronised.

At Carluccio's there’s nothing in the stripped down deli to encourage us to make a special trip. The ‘famous’ Gelati Artigianali ice cream is ok but bettered by a number of local producers like Dunham Massey Farm. The cheese is bettered by Selfridges and Harvey Nichols, whilst the Cheese Hamlet in Didsbury spanks the lot. Fresh pasta sauces look fine, the various tarts appear worthy of a go and the bread beautifully presented. But nothing to delight you too much.

The other side of the space is the ‘caffe’.

There are few surprises on the menu, for this is another faux Italian. A bowl of fairly good (ie not bitter) green olives (£1.70) to nibble, followed by arancini di riso Siciliani (£5.75), rice balls, one with mozzarella, the other a meat ragu. Gordo loved them, Winker thought they were a bit dry, but seemed to be ignoring a pepolata (red pepper) sauce served on the side which sorted out any aridity.

Pasta con funghi (£6.25) was the outstanding dish of the day, half button, half wild mushrooms with lots of woody flavours knocking about. The sauce was just sticky enough not to be dripping off the pasta which was the house brand of egg pappardelle. Winkers filleto di maiale con pepperoni (£9.75) was pork fillet, pan fried with a well balanced seasoning, including herbs, sharing the plate with sweet and sour peppers that had been cooked to melting then left to go cold. They were fab.

Then the Fegato Veneziana. (£10.95). Calves liver, balsamic onions and roast new potatoes with rosemary. On the plate, the dish looked a brown mess. It tasted like a brown mess. The calves liver had been over floured, cooked at too low a temperature and for too long, it tasted of soggy cardboard. The onions were iffy at best and there was not a lot of balsamic knocking about.

Mr. Carluccio, in his book Complete Italian Food, spends one and a half paragraphs on his recipe for this classic from Venice. It isn’t enough, there are techniques to be learned here. Actually, from memory, it’s the Veneto version in the book, they leave out the vinegar. But he tells the cook to fry the calves liver for three to four minutes to get it pink in the middle. That’s wrong, two minutes each side is how it should be done. Longer and you may as well be using lambs liver, cooking on low for ten minutes. The marriage of the onions and the liver should be a last minute affair. Maybe the chef had made the basic mistake of following the book and not his taste buds?

In fairness, the fantastic lady serving us offered to replace the dish, but Gordo wanted to try the ice cream and as he had polished off the pasta previously he was in danger of popping.

The ice cream (£3.35 for two scoops) was nice. But mean. Gordo would go back, but only if he had been found guilty of something and sentenced to a trip to the Trafford Centre.

Indeed speaking of pointless journeys and Winker the whole thing put Gordo in mind of an occasion in Italy some years ago. Gordo and Winker shared a villa together in Lucca, Tuscany, for a couple of weeks. Never again. It was middle class hell. Winker and his missus, the fragrant but single minded Fiona, seemed to spend most of the time sticking knives into each other. One memorable night, the party drive to San Gimignano for dinner, a good 120 miles away down the motorway.

Fiona and Winker carry on the bickering on the way home, Fiona being egged on by Debbie Garner, no relation, who clearly considers Winker to be less worthy than the chewing gum which had stuck to her Russell and Bromley pumps earlier in the evening. By the time they reach the toll booths to get on the motorway the atmosphere is boiling. “And another thing Debbie, he snorts and farts at the same time when he’s asleep”, says Fiona on Winker’s night time habits.

“Bollocks to this,” retorts Winker, who gets out of the car and jumps over the barrier into dense foliage. Gordo is baffled and has to make a decision: does he pull over or go through? Gordo makes his mind up. Winker has clearly had enough and gone for a drink. The toll paid, Gordo settles into to a 100 mile trip back to the villa with the Witches of Eastwick in the back of the car doing a character assassination on Winker all the way home.

Gordo wakes with a start at 5.45am the following morning by some mentalist trying to break down the front door of the villa. Opening the door, Gordo is confronted by Winker, dirty, dishevelled and very pissed off.

“Well, did you have a good one”, asks Gordo.

“Fucking good what?” steams Winker. “I went for a quick piss in the bushes and you buggered off! It’s taken me six hours to get back.”

A piss in the bushes. As so often a visit to The Trafford Centre felt just about as satisfying.

Score 13.5/20

(Food 6/10 Service 4.5/5 Ambience 3/5)

Caffe Carluccio’s (The Great Hall The Trafford Centre 0161 747 4973 www.carluccios.com)

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12 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

HowardApril 10th 2007.

Hold on a minute. Carluccio is just trying to make a few quid! Nobody goes to the Trafford Centre for a fine dining experience for Christ's sake. This is a retail-addict needle park. It's a "He's been on the telly let's go so that we can talk about it" experience. This is Bella Pasta, La Tasca and Pesto land. Leave them alone!

keithybabyApril 10th 2007.

First, let me declare an interest here. Carluccio's is a publicly quoted company on the London stock exchange and I am a shareholder in it. As such I was really pleased when I read that a branch was opening in the Trafford Centre. I have been to eat there twice now. When I read this review my first impression was that there must be 2 Carluccio's with one of them an imopostor, (La Tasca once had that problem with some guy in Leeds and it cost them £50k to sort it out) as the food I have eaten on both occasions has been excellent, delicious rich soup, fantactic roasted vegetables, the only problem was a slight mix up over the salad we ordered. Given the place had only been open for 5 days though, I was happy to overlook that. Now, this week I had to travel to Lodon on business so I thought I would take the chance to compare a London Carluccio's. I tracked one down just off Oxford St for a late lunch of sardines with red onion and pine nuts and roasted vine tomatoes with celeriac mash and a blasamic reduction washed down with a couple of glasses of Sicilian Nero D'Avola. Shock horror! It was no different to Manchester! Excellent food, attentive service, reasonable prices. I wonder if Gordo has eaten at a Carluccio's in London? Furthermore, being naked capitalists driven by the need to make profit and satisfy avaricious shareholders, what possible motive can a company have to serve up anything other than the same standard of food with the same ambiance at all its establishments?All I would say is read the reviews by all means, but then go along for yourself and MAKE UP YOUR OWN MIND.

AnonymousApril 10th 2007.

I'm a bit confused - having had a great visit to carluccios in the Trafford centre I decided to try my luck at one of their cafes in London when I weas there on business a week or so ago and found that whilst different in feel and design to have the same range and menu (even the same prices!) as I'd seen at Trafford - so how Gordo can claim this has been 'watered down' astounds me!I even went so far to pop in again for a quick (but fantastic!) coffee and asked the manager if there was a difference and having spent 3 years runnings a Carluccios in London (as has the chef!) he assured me not.Great food, great staff and FRESH food - surely almost a novelty at the Trafford Centre - Highly Recommended!

ChrisApril 10th 2007.

I enjoy eating good food at Selfridges in the Trafford centre. We often pop for a bite to eat if time is short. Driving in to town can be such a nightmare, I wish Carluccio's well and I will pop to try it is some time soon (when there traffic is in town and not blocking all the roads around Trafford.)

Jerzy (George) W. J. BergierApril 10th 2007.

My daughter and her mother went to Carluccio's in London and they tell me they had a very good meal. I have not yet been to the one in Trafford Centre but must say before I go, now that I have read your review, I will think twice. All the big name chefs that come over to Manchester from other parts of the country or the world, open restaurants, hotels etc., think we are a bunch of ......... as far as the food,drink and service are concerned, and dish out inferior quality food at inflated prices to what they think-we are bunch of country bumpkins.But, we up North know what quantity and quality is. There is now, especially on TV and radio, selection of food programmes and the vieweres and listners understand what to expect on their plates.We must always be bold enough and complain, complain, complain... until the owners of the establishments take notice and start putting things right. Eat at Junipers, Mr. Thomas's Chop House, Sam's Chop House and Fat Loaf and you will not be disappointed! Late afternoon on Monday we had a bar snack at the Bistro and Hotel du Vin in Winchester. First class service, simple good food, quality wine, fantastic ambience, tour of the most spectacular wine cellar and all at below £80.00 for four. Value for money!

Dave BApril 10th 2007.

Loz should try Relish! Possibly the worst restaurant I have ever been in. We placed a pre-order for 16 on a Saturday night,and booked the table for 9PM, we did not get seated tll 9:35, the first starter promptly arrived at 10:25, cold! At which point the lovely but annoyed waitress told us to complain to the manager, as she was sick of complaints! We did complain only to be told "Sorry the chefs having a bad night" at which point all 16 of us walked out,without a single meal between us! Now that's service!

Loz ByrneApril 10th 2007.

Tell Gordo if he wants something to REALLY complain about, he should go to the new Slug & Lettuce on Deansgate! The worst food and service I've come across in a VERY long time.

ryan jacksonApril 10th 2007.

I agree with howard. The restaurants in the trafford centre serve a purpose for the people shopping. However I do think they will struggle as carluccios looks a liitle out of place and uninteresting especially when it is placed next to las iguanas which looks great.

AnonymousApril 10th 2007.

Wait - I think I have found it! There is a food review in here somewhere.....

AnonymousApril 10th 2007.

I really don't understand what Gordo is talking about. I am a regular atCarluccio's in London and often frequent Manchester for work so when I heardthat a new one had opened at the Trafford Centre I was really excited and decided to take a client there for business during my last visit. As expected Carluccio's did not disappoint.The menu was exactly the same as in London. I ordered my usual favourite dishes and the food, as expected, was as good as always.

ScottApril 10th 2007.

I have to say that this is a weak report on the restaurant at best (talk about shoe horning in a personal story for your mates). Sorry Gordo. As has already been said, people don't eat at the Trafford Centre to excite their taste buds, they eat there because they are hungry. Carluccio's fills a hole in that it's a nicer place to be than the rest of the 'restaurants' there. All i want is decent service before going to see and film, no stress, just quality ingredients and happy staff and that is exactly what i have had on every visit. Next time keep it in your pants Gordo (or at least spare us the details).

FiFiXrdApril 10th 2007.

I'm a fan. The service never disappoints and the food is pretty decent. It is never going to be the place you go for special occaisions/birthdays/anniversarys etc as it is the Trafford Centre but it is head and shoulders above Las Iguanas, Pesto, La tasca etc. And the cakes are fab - much better to nip there for a coffee and a cake mid shop than Starbucks & Costa. A welcome addition to the Trafford centre if you ask me!

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It had similar, next to Puccinis, which always had fights and stabbings. So, I'm going to disagree.

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