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San Carlo review

Jonathan Schofield starts with gerbils, moves through spiders and ends with apes

Written by . Published on November 9th 2009.

San Carlo review

San Carlo, 1.30pm on a Friday lunchtime. Dead, no-one in. Absolutely lifeless.

The place was emptier than the Atacama Desert after a global disaster in which all life on Earth had been extinguished.

Aside from gerbils.

And the gerbils had decided to eat elsewhere.

And that’s the wayward genius of the place. San Carlo is maddening and seductive. It proves that restaurants are about more than just the food, they're about the spectacle and the experience too. It's clear that as long as it keeps proving itself so attractive to the thronging hordes then San Carlo must be providing the full restaurant experience that others don't

I’m lying.

Of course I am.

Anybody who knows the Manchester food scene will know that San Carlo is always packed. In fact on our Friday visit it was so busy that the streets of Calcutta had just texted in to say, “Ok, in terms of teeming millions, you win.”

As we waited for our starters my friend and I decided to debate phenomenon that is San Carlo. We dismissed the notion of devilish pacts involving the selling of souls fairly quickly. Then it struck us. Maybe it’s down to the excessive amount of staff who rush around shouting like desperate commuters at a departing train. They create energy, interest, even anticipation, which in turn creates even more activity and buzz. If we could harness all the energy of the staff we might not have to build more nuclear power stations.

The result is that the whole place is a merry mayhem, a breezy bedlam: plates are slapped down, bottles clink against glasses, diners’ crockery is swept away with a great crash. And all this is set against a background rumble of customers chattering and staff bellowing at each other.

So what about the food? Could that be the secret of San Carlo’s effervescence?

Some of it might be. We had a three standout dishes from five.

First let's sing a song for the tuna carpaccio (£8.95). This was gloriously presented and the flesh melted and broke in the mouth in an ever-so gentle yet full flavoured fashion. The fennel and the zesty marinade concentrated the taste as well, rather than dissipating it.

I had a crab (£7.95) with big ears. That’s how the salad framed it anyway – salad which was part of some other slightly needless sundries. The crab itself was lovely, beautifully prepared, gloriously realised and gone in sixty seconds. It was a spider crab apparently which explained the sweeter meat than that which the standard brown crab donates the diner. Apparently the Spanish pay more for spider crabs than for same weight lobsters, can't see it myself, but this was very good.

The mains were less assured. My lemon sole (£14.95) was a seductive thing, with flesh which was delicate, juicy and pleasant. It suffered from a layering of wine and mushroom sauce which was in danger of drowning the flavours, although that’s a critic’s criticism because overall I still enjoyed the dish. If the sauce had come in a separate jug for pouring it would have worked better.

The pasta main of spaghetti (£11.50) with king prawns, capers, chillies, tomatoes promised a lot but delivered confusion rather than coherence. My dining partner said she could have made this at home, which is not what you want when you go out for a meal.

Order was restored with a wonderful dessert of Chianti poached pears with homemade ice cream (£4.95). This was as florid as a fresco in the Palazzo del Te in Mantua (or indeed as florid as that sentence). If you’re passing and get the sweats for something sweet nip in, you won’t be disappointed.

We drank a Vermentino wine (£23), a Vernaccia (£23.95) and some sweet wines. First choice was best, with the Monteoro Vermentino di Gallura, filling the mouth with rich, honey flavours. The Vernaccia was bland but showed that wine-buffs could have some serious fun with the winelist here, although the restaurant could do with more choice at the lower end.

Resting at the end of the meal and looking around, it’s obvious that some parts of San Carlo are an acquired taste. I’ve made a vow never to utter the c-word out loud for a year. I’m talking about the word that begins ‘celeb’ and ends ‘shitty’ - you know which I mean. San Carlo is covered in hordes of c-worder photographs taken in the restaurant. It looks like Hello! magazine had a year’s sabbatical in Manchester, and was locked in San Carlo the whole time. It's vulgar. But achieves what it sets out to do in making those who are impressed by such things think they're in a significant place. Truth is we're all probably impressed by such things - deep down.

And that’s the wayward genius of the place. San Carlo is maddening and seductive. It proves that restaurants are about more than just the food, they're about the spectacle and the experience too. It's clear that as long as it keeps proving itself so attractive to the thronging hordes then San Carlo must be providing the full restaurant experience that others don't.

Maybe it says something about Manchester as well. Apparently the Halle Orchestra was set up by German ex-pats in the city in the 1850s because the locals couldn't be bothered with supporting a full time symphony orchestra. We preferred variety and music hall, in other words we might want a degree of quality but we never want stuffy.

It also shows that homo sapiens as a species is much the same as our distant ancestors - well it does after the fourth wine. We're still as gregarious as apes fresh out of the trees, living in groups, picking nits out of each other’s hair and staring at the rest of the troop. In San Carlo we just do it in clothes is all - and have hyperactive Italians to oil the wheels.

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away

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

RayNovember 9th 2009.

Is this a good place to eat? No; the food is distinctly average. Is it an interesting experience? Perhaps, yes, but a bit like watching a freak show - it's compelling and slightly nauseating in equal measure. I'm glad it exists; it draws the Alderley Oompaloompas in like flies to manure, and stops them infecting other places. Well, apart from RBG, Panacaea, Living room...d'oh!

CasNovember 9th 2009.

A few years ago we used to go here literally every weekend for lunch, however the food went downhill massively and better competition came on the scene. We went again with the child a few weeks ago and it was a bit better, he loved people watching. However it was a Friday afternoon and it seemed the tackiest people in Cheshire had come on a coach party. Sequined bags, killer heels, bee stung lips, hair replacements, and the women were even worse! It can all be a bit cringe worthy. The strutting over to someone's table you hardly know and doing the air kiss and then seeing all the back stabbing that follows. I have a season ticket to Knowsley Safari Park but this place could teach you much more about animal behaivour.

emma graceNovember 9th 2009.

*generally*...stop rushing emma

AnonymousNovember 9th 2009.

Damn so it isn't the Red Eared Crab of Cardigan Bay. The only crab you have to really quietly creep up on and then scare to death with a loud, 'BOO!'”

Having a laughNovember 9th 2009.

Miss Itai are you for real? The moans on this rant about service at San Carlo, or lack of it, are not testement to a 'well-oiled-machine. The various employees that 'serve' you don't actually do that. They slam the plates in front of you, slop the wine in your lap and then present you with a bill you have yet to ask for. The well-oiled machine is clearly not giving its customers the service they deserve, unless you're a Z-list celeb or a footballer of course

CasNovember 9th 2009.

Another thought on this. Where have the escargot gone? I used to go to there for them as there's a not of places that do them. They got rid of the steak tartare as well, I ordered it there once for lunch and it was like an event. Two waiters brought it out and prepared it in front of me.

AnonymousNovember 9th 2009.

@Cas, you sound like the type I am not aiming at, read through the rants here, close your eyes and get an impression; overwhelmingingly moaning minnies. I am right, if advertisers based their decisions on an impression of this websites readership from the *majority* of these rants, they wouldn't get a lot of advertising. Now, with Stock you are showing class though very expensive if you do the job properly. Now Gusto, oh dear, you are showing your girlie side. Just a reliable middle of the road faux Italian with good Pizza. We all know that's American though, don't we?

lucky-chrisNovember 9th 2009.

.....of course that's until you read Sebastian's rant.....

DougNovember 9th 2009.

I've been to San Carlo once or twice but it's definitely not for me. The food wasn't great at all and it all seemed pretty plastic. As a general rule for myself if I find myself eating, drinking or clubbing in the same place as footballers or soap stars then I know I'm in the wrong place. Also, when the best thing a reviewer can find to say about a restaurant is that it's good for 'people watching' then I'll look elsewhere anywhere thanks. I guess it caters for a certain type of consumer so fair enough.

AnonymousNovember 9th 2009.

I went there about a year ago with a couple of friends. The service was dreadful, the food was expensive and on the poor side of average and I could clearly see a chap at another table wearing a multicoloured sequined jacket. The final insult. I'm never going back.

DidsburyGirlNovember 9th 2009.

Booked this place for our Office Christmas Dinner, hopefully after this positive review it will be a great meal. Only thing I had heard previously was that the food is good, and its best to go in a big group as you get the attention that way, rather than being a rushed table for 2

SteveNovember 9th 2009.

Fair cop...consider my wrist well and truly slapped. When I made a complaint about the lack of service to this chap however, i got back" we are the busiest restaurant in Manchester"...make up your own minds.....I won't be returning.

NesbittNovember 9th 2009.

Good line: San Carlo more than most others shows that restaurants are about more than just the food, they're about the spectacle and the experience too.

Give this woman a medalNovember 9th 2009.

The ranters on Confidential are often just as some of them describe San Carlo, all form and no substance. They come across as hasty, narrow-minded fools.

citizenandrewNovember 9th 2009.

San Carlo used to be one of my favourite manchester restaurants. However my last visit was so awful I wouldn't ever go again. The service was rushed, careless and bordered on rude, served by numerous different waiters who didn't seem to know or care about the answers to any of our enquiries or the level of experience we were having. The food was OK but there is better elsewhere.

Miss ItaiNovember 9th 2009.

To the anonymous previous comment - the fact you were served by 8 different people IS the beauty of San Carlo - despite its apparent manic surface, the ability for 8 different waiters to take your drinks request, food order, change cutlery, bring food, take away plates, fill your glass, bring the bill, get your coats - shows that it is in fact a well oiled machine that can delivery excellent organised service within the excitement and show of the 'merry mayhem'. If you were looking for a venue where your personal waitress welcomed you with a cheesy 'Hi, welcome to our restaurant, my name is Kelly and I'll be your server tonight' - you should have gone to America. Perhaps that is where you got the word 'perleeeeeze' from??This place is truly excellent and worthy of all its praise!

GKWNovember 9th 2009.

@N Riche, a bit of flash is fine, but the general complaint about this place is the terrible service, the rush to get you in and out a.s.a.p. the inconsistant food served. I've been suited and booted and still treated like something you brought in on your shoe !

MaggsNovember 9th 2009.

Don't like San Carlo at all - I agree with all who say that the food is overpriced - I don't mind 'dated' if it is cooked well but have not found that to be the case at San Carlo. Service is terrible and on the couple of occasions I have been there I thought the staff were downright rude. Much prefer Del Lago at Hollinworth Lake for good old fashioned Italian food at reasonable prices AND polite staff!!

RaygunNovember 9th 2009.

Laughable- your reviewer cannot tell the difference between brown crab and spider crab...

RogerNovember 9th 2009.

I've never had the rude staff thing at San Carlo, then again I always treat people politely and they then do the same in return. It always works.

SteveNovember 9th 2009.

Anon....struck a nerve have we? EDITORIAL: COMMENT REMOVED: We say this again and again on here. Comment generally or about third party entities such as what you think of the restaurant but please do not descend into personal abuse.

lucky-chrisNovember 9th 2009.

Really mate. I'm not saying that San Carlo is bad because the review says it's good. I'm not even suggesting you're wrong to trust the review, but even the review is the product of one person's experience on one day. I take what I read on ManCon on board - reviews AND rants, and fail to see why I should trust one over the other.

Offally goodNovember 9th 2009.

I love tripe. I wish the Ox put it on. Does anybody know where you can buy it?

ChickNovember 9th 2009.

chorlton schmorlton; laughing out loud before I go to bed! Brilliant, thank you :)

SebastianNovember 9th 2009.

Really I can’t understand this anonymous, he complains so much about San Carlo, he must be the owner of a restaurant jealous of the success that San Carlo has not just in Manchester but all over the UK. San Carlo is the best thing that could have happen to Manchester, the atmosphere is unbelievable, the food is glorious, the quality of their products is first class. I met once Mr Di Stefano (the owner), the man is unbelievable, I never met a person so passionate about food, He is the reason of San Carlo great success. I think that this “anonymous” instead of wasting his time on criticising, should take stock, and if he is another restaurateur try to learn from San Carlo and maybe he could share the same success.

tripeologyNovember 9th 2009.

The butchers in the food hall at Salford market sell tripe (no, really, real tripe; although you can, admittedly, buy all manner of tripe in the Precinct).

The Real AnonymousNovember 9th 2009.

Sebastian's rant towards the top has got to be the best rant on here ever hasn't it? Imagine how confused he must be the poor ba****d. He must be thinking, this Mr Anonymous really hates San Carlo.

Karen HNovember 9th 2009.

I agree with the reviewer above, who has thought long and hard about what he is writing probably. He is showing balance with his occasionally apalled fascination with the place. Most of the commentators on here show no balance. They rant as there is only one type of restaurant in the world, the one they like and that people who dress differently and behave differently are somehow lesser people. It makes them look po-faced and bitter. Comments about service are fine but all the stuff about the way people dress and their skin tone stinks of inverted snobbery. The ranters on Confidential are often just as some of them describe San Carlo, all form and no substance. They come across as hasty, narrow-minded fools. It wouldn't be so bad if they were even a bit funny.....as with the crab comments above.

scoteeeNovember 9th 2009.

That's the great thing about Mancon and the rant facility.The picture I get having never been to San Carlo's actually fits in with and finitely polishes a review. On balance I won't be going.

N RicheNovember 9th 2009.

Come on folks. San Carlo is a breeze. Great fun. Maybe people prefer miserable Northern Quarter places with homespun clothes. What's wrong with a bit of flash?

HanrahanNovember 9th 2009.

James T, I have asked myself that question every time I've been there. Why is San Carlo always so busy? I'm not sure what point we're missing? If the idea of going to a restaurant and dropping 50+ quid a head is to be fed well and served with courtesy then it's San Carlo that have missed the point. I'm really happy to see that there are so many people on here that share my views on this shrine to style without substance.

chorlton schmorltonNovember 9th 2009.

And the Oscar for most thinly disguised rant by someone connected to a restaurant goes to: SEBASTIAN! Well done, the academy loves your work. And as recognition for the comedy-Italian phrasing of your rant you shall also be inducted into the Meryl Streep Memorial Faux-European Accent Hall of Fame.

CasNovember 9th 2009.

@ anon; How condescending would you like to be? I don't think anyone hates the 'well dressed' people at all, I think they find them rather amusing and I would use the 'well dressed' term very loosely. More Mel's Mobility than Warren Beatty. What people are getting at is it's good for people watching but the food is not fantastic and is overpriced. This doesn't make them poor or cheap, how rude to suggest that. I've eaten many starters that cost more than a four course meal at San Carlo but that doesn't mean you lose sense of value. The food is good, not great. Better options for Italian food are Stock, San Rocco, and any of the reliable Gusto chain. Far better options for top notch food are Cains, Harvey Nics, River Room and The French. So please don't assume we are clueless oafs, we're entitled to an opinion as much as yourself and having eaten at San Carlo around 30 times, I'd say my opinion is quite well informed. I used to go for the food, it used to be much better, I now go (though not very often) for convenience and to gossip.

SteveNovember 9th 2009.

That ain't no Spider crab... it's a native brown crab. Looks like they've had you ver JS. Mind, you aren;t the first and you certainly won't be the last. back to the restaurant...been a dozen times over the years and the food and service has varied from excellent to bloody awful. Great for people watching though.

lucky-chrisNovember 9th 2009.

More experience and aquired knowledge of eating.... wow. While I'll never rubbish what Schofield/Garner/whoever say about a particular place, they might have a good meal while GKW (just an example) ended up hating the place... so who's word do you take? Schofield because he eats out more?? Because he has a doctorate in eating?? I just don't agree that rants are any less (or more) valid than a review on something so subjective.

lucky-chrisNovember 9th 2009.

But apart from being more articulate, what qualifies the "professional" reviewer's opinion as any more valid than the rant? It's the same staff serving the same food at the same venue.

John HarveyNovember 9th 2009.

I was there last night and had a great time. Fun all the way.

Roger CashmanNovember 9th 2009.

I love it here. My kind of place.

SteveNovember 9th 2009.

Back to the food, the spider crab has a smaller,rounder shell and is red in colour. EDITORIAL: COMMENT REMOVED: We say this again and again on here. Comment generally or about third party entities such as what you think of the restaurant but please do not descend into personal abuse.

John TNovember 9th 2009.

I had spider crabs once. Very hard to shake from one's underwear.

SteveNovember 9th 2009.

Talking of celeb photos... in the 70's the Woo Sang in Chinatown used to have a signed phot of Bet Lynch on the wall...proper A lister!!

AvoNovember 9th 2009.

I wonder if Rosso will have any impact on San Carlo's trade when it opens? Surely both venues will be vying for the same clientele.

JaNovember 9th 2009.

I bloody love this place. Like the writer I find all the photos a bit vulgar, but the food can be very good, and the atmosphere is always fun. Just people-watch anonymous you'll lighten up and have a ball.

emma graceNovember 9th 2009.

Steve, yes he is. But he's a hottie though. I'd happily go back for an evening of ok food and unpredictable service if only to get a good eyeful of Marcello!

Big Hairy BlokeNovember 9th 2009.

Crikey, you can always tell the busiest restaurants in Manchester, they are the ones who get loads of rants, for and against in equal measure, San Carlo is the busiest of them all! Good luck to the owners, it must be making them a bloody fortune. Whats this constant chip on ManCon readers shoulders about smartly dressed people by the way? A bit of lipstick and you lot are on the warpath. I like my missus to get the glad rags on. It makes for an evening out.

AnonymousNovember 9th 2009.

it's me again; Allfurcoatandnoknickers, £20 quid a head for dinner? £20 quid!! This ain't the place for you, Bella Pesta would have been far more appropriate (and it ain't that bad either). Waiters need to be related the The Angel Gabriel to have not tried to turn your table over fast!

csrNovember 9th 2009.

I'd heard so much about the place, i decided to book a table for some friends to celebrate a friends special birthday. The service was dreadful, my friend got her mains and nearly finished it before anyone else got theirs. Basically it's overrated, poor service, the reason it still going is because they must treat Footballers a lot better, and they attract shall we say, a very tacky sad lot.

CasNovember 9th 2009.

Very happy about the Ox, I would have felt awful had it been tripe. Thank you.

Roger CashmanNovember 9th 2009.

I love it here. My kind of place.

AnonymousNovember 9th 2009.

Dear Mark R I often feel that i should invade the kitchen to do better. Maybe peeps here could apply to be on the Beebs restaurant at home reality show. Just off to make a fine beef and dried peas stew. to serve with a mash + and carrots !BISTO! as a long forgotten add use to say.

SUE LNovember 9th 2009.

At last some criticism of San Carlo...was beginning to think everyone thought it was the greatest restaurant in the universe!!!!..its just an ordinary Italian with ideas above its station...Lets just leave it for the C listers who can sit happily in the booths eating mediocre food and being fawned over by the management....Not a place where they care a jot about about the unhappy customer.

Jonathan Schofield - crabitorNovember 9th 2009.

Dear Szr it was Friday and as I'm deeply religious I never eat meat. Actually that's a fib and I should perhaps have given the lunch that diversity except that fish is a bit of a thing with San Carlo so I wanted to test it. As for Steve's comment if I'm wrong I can only plead lamentable ignorance. I should have counted the legs.

like to people watch but dont want to pay to do itNovember 9th 2009.

Never eaten here and was going to book a table for the girlfriends b,day but after reading this dont think il bother,always pay that bit more for a nice meal but really dont get all the people that think its great to pay thr prices this place charge and the best part of the night they can think of is to people watch??? Stand outside and do it for free if thats what floats ur boat

David FoxNovember 9th 2009.

Fantastic review. Catches the very heartbeat that is San Carlo. They must be doing something right in these recessionary times and good for them. Sod the heavyweight boxing - I can't wait until San Carlo box off against Bibbis on both sides of the Pennines. I understand both are planning to open in each others camps. I'm off to get a suntan.

AnonymousNovember 9th 2009.

I bloody hate this place! Last time I went, I was 'served' by 8 different people - and I use the word 'served' with caution. It is a mediocre restaurant, serving OK food, with a very, very big attitude problem. Who gives a ****? So what if some footie player is eating next to you? It should be about quality not quantity and those 'photos - perleeze, so 80s. Yuk

AnonymousNovember 9th 2009.

@Steve, why, is that because he is probably far better dressed, well mannered and pleasant, not to mention down right fit. EDITORIAL: COMMENT REMOVED: We say this again and again on here. Comment generally or about third party entities such as what you think of the restaurant but please do not descend into personal abuse..

Hearsay MolluscNovember 9th 2009.

To be fair that crab does have big lettuce leaf ears. In fact I think it's the Red Eared Crab of Cardigan Bay. The only crab you have to really quietly creep up on and then scare to death with a loud, 'BOO!'

Mark Garner, the PublisherNovember 9th 2009.

Cas, thats why I love it! I agree with you Jonathan, I don't get the Spider crab thing, doesn't hold a candle to ours off Anglesea. BTW Cas, good tip re the Ox, took Jonathan in yesterday, they have redeemed themselves somewhat, review to follow.

ONovember 9th 2009.

I planned to go here for lunch a few weeks back. Didn't book just walked in. Waiter wanted to sit my wife and I in between two other tables (hate that anyway - when they try and cram you in) in the smallest space imaginable. Fair enough as I hadn't booked a table, but I would have been virtually touching elbows with the person next to me and the space was full of shopping bags and I would have had to literally climb over them to take my seat while a load of idiots drinking champagne stared at me. I said thanks but no thanks to the waiter. His face! he couldn't believe that someone would dare choose to leave. As if he was doing me a favour even letting me sit down. So I went to Restaurant Bar and Grill and as per usual there, had a fantastic meal. Won't be rushing to go back here, especially after reading things on here. Sounds like the culinary version of sugar lounge.

SteveNovember 9th 2009.

Riddler......one could ask the same about McDonalds eh?

Mark RafterNovember 9th 2009.

The problem with trusting ranters is that you can't blame anyone when you miss out or take their recommendation and its rubbish. The recommendation may be personally biased in any case. For a professional writer they only get the job, or should do, if they are any good, then they have to maintain that standard. Otherwise they get fired and someone else gets to write instead - and there are a lot of redundant writers out there. As for ranters' opinions I stayed in a hotel in Holland this summer which all the sites had comments on saying it was terrible. Didn't want to go but there was no other place. The hotel was fine, nothing wrong with it, not dirty and full of rats. This surprised me and I re-read the comments and realised that most, given the grammatical errors, came from the same person. I like San Carlo, I think the food is fine and the ambience is good. I think Roger was right, trust the paid professional who's job is on the line rather than the loose fingered bored ranter.

BabyNovember 9th 2009.

Ah well, under-charging, allegedly and over-charging, allegedly. It all balances out in the end

AnonymousNovember 9th 2009.

I have eaten in San Carlo in Birmingham and it was nothing special at all, rushed service and mediocre food. No footballers or c - listers in site. Given that the food is the same in both restaurants i can only conclude that the atmosphere must count for its success in Manchester as the article suggests.

luluNovember 9th 2009.

I love this place but if i wanted good service its not the place to be, the service is either full on or non existant or stretched out to several hours unless you grab one of the flirty italian waiters, ok if you like that sort of thing i guess. Ienjoy most of the food i usually have the monkfish tagliatelle and the chocolate ganache which are both delicious compared to some other dishes iv tried. Great special atmosphere and decor ( except for the celeb photos, who cares about that)

AnonymousNovember 9th 2009.

I don't get what all the fuss is about! Ok the food is good but the service isn't great! When they pour your water or wine half of it ends up on the table! & at those prices i'd rather it was in my glass!!!

M30November 9th 2009.

Seems to be a pattern forming here, as I had a fantastic meal here several times on a work jolly, yet when I went with my better half, it was a case of service from East Germany and food from Iceland. I get the impression that they're only interested in serving groups of footballers, Cheshire women dripping in Moschino with tits like spaniels ears, and Dev Alahan

emma graceNovember 9th 2009.

I've been about 6 times I think, and it's a funny thing, whenever I've been on a table of 2, I've been both ignored, rushed and generaly made to feel like we were their least priority. Whenever I've been with a bigger party, the service is great. I've heard that from quite a few friends as well. So in my experience, you'll only be treated nicely if you are on a higher spending table.

szrNovember 9th 2009.

I've been here twice in recent months and had wildly different experiences each time. I first went in a group of 4 and had a great time with excellent food and service. Then I took my girlfriend and hated every second of the experience. We were ignored by the staff, food was thrown in front of us, and the food itself was lifeless and uninspiring. A couple of words on the review as well...I love fish, but I think it's a bit narrow-minded to offer a review of a restaurant without trying anything other than seafood starters and mains. A bit more variety in the chosen menu next time please!

in the knowNovember 9th 2009.

Tables too close together, paper tablecloths, awful service and average food. Not the best in town and did I say overpriced for what it is??? Could do better!

GKWNovember 9th 2009.

I have given this place a try a few times, and have now vowed never again. I have always been given the feeling that this place is about bums on seats, get them, in feed them, get them to buy drinks, charge them for bread, try and get a tip, and hope they don't see the extra bottle of wine or water on the bill. Every time I went there was an overcharge which was always blamed on a different server. Never ever again !

AnonymousNovember 9th 2009.

I walked out of this restaurant on my last visit. I know of more than one other group who have done the same. The waiting staff are rude and the service sloppy. I can't believe people pay to go here. It has been correctly stated that a restaurant is more than just it's food. The 'more than' in this case is a negative, not a positive. A postive would be efficient and helpful staff who don't look like they will slap you for expecting service.

LBNovember 9th 2009.

AWFUL service, whenever I've been. Rude before sitting down, over-fussy afterwards. And the risotto was plainly prepared in advance: bowl-moulded on to a plate; and a sauce poured on top. Dreadful. I'm suspicious of any Italian (theme park) restaurant that can't even make risotto properly...

HanrahanNovember 9th 2009.

San Carlo is a real Emperors New Clothes restaurant. The staff are rude and afflicted by the kind of superiority complex I cannot stand. Is it part of their training? As for staff shouting across the restaurant at each other, how quaint... I doubt you'd find it so charming if they were shouting in English. As far as the lobster tagliatelle goes, I've had it and it is very, very ordinary. More cream than lobster and the pasta was overcooked to the point of gloopiness. I have tried this place on several occasions, each time invited by somebody else and each time I really wanted to like the place putting prior experience down to an off night etc. No more, this is as bad as it gets as far as I'm concerned. And don't beleive anyone that tells you that it's worth going for the fish. On my last visit I was served swordfish that was way past its best, from the specials board. If this is the high benchmark for buzzy Italian restaurants in Manchester, I despair. The prices are a joke by the way. Strictly for the fur coat no knickers crowd!

tripeologyNovember 9th 2009.

ps: sorry for the hijack! btw, San Carlo is what it is. It can be great fun, though i suggest taking a dulux colour chart and if the general hue of the clientele is approaching "pumpkin bliss" give it a swerve.

ONovember 9th 2009.

To answer Roger's question, why not go with the professional...Professional what? Professional eater? Someone's got to do it but really, it's the taste of food isn't it. It's not science, it's not art, it isn't really even that important is it. It's not like, say, I'm taking someone's opinion on building a house and just chucking it up without seeking 'professional' advice. It's just food. I'm sure I'll be safe with the opinion of a non pro.

scoteeeNovember 9th 2009.

Oh get a life Raygun you toss pot!

RogerNovember 9th 2009.

Just read O's comment. Why do people trust the ranter rather than the reviewer? Go with the professional every time rather than the person with the heightened whinge gene. I bet this story has had hundreds or thousands of reads and I bet those who've had great times there (and aren't orange) haven't bothered commenting. Tis the nature of things.

DescartesNovember 9th 2009.

I quite like San Carlo, I may have only eaten there a handful of times but I've never had a particularly bad time. Anyone not liking the service style should try visiting a similarly busy restaurant in London. I found it brisk, but effective. Certainly no complaints.

GKWNovember 9th 2009.

Thank you lucky-chris for taking note of just my opinion, point of info my experience of eating out consists of dining usualy 3 or 4 nights a week in various restaurants all over Manchester as well as London and many other places in this country and overseas, from Michelin stared to places to the usual town haunts

Steven LNovember 9th 2009.

The point as it says in the article to go and watch that madness going on all around, and even better watch it as you're getting slightly pissed. San Carlo shouldn't be taken seriously as the best restaurant in the city but as a bloody good entertainment.

allfurcoatandnoknickersNovember 9th 2009.

My name (damn my parents) would imply that this is my kind of place, but seriously you really shouldn't bother if you are a couple having a run of the mill £20 a head meal, or god forbid just having a pizza or pasta. The staff clearly know where the money is at and you'd be forgiven for thinking that they earned tips only. We went once with a few friends and the general opinion was that we wanted a cheap bite before a night out. As such we all had pizza / pasta dishes, a half bottle of wine each and a couple of garlic breads to share. This clearly didn't impress the arrogant waiting staff and their attentions were firmly on the glamour pusses and David Dickinson Jr's on the next table who were melting their plastic (in more thann one way). Overpriced and overated in my opinion, but one of those places which seems to brush off the many poor reviews with a swagger which attracts a loyal clientelle who seem to think the sun shines out of its (and their own) arse. Must say though, food isn't bad, you just expect a little more all round but they fall short in each department

Cynical old meNovember 9th 2009.

Sebastian, you're either so far up Mr Di Stefano's arse you can see daylight or connected to San Carlo in some way. Half decent Italian food it is. A good place to watch people it is. The best thing that could have happened to Manchester? The food glorious? Atmosphere unbelievable? Quality first class? Put the grappa down Sebastian and perhaps it is you who should try other restaurants. Honeslty of all the biased comments you get on here, that one has made me chuckle more than any for quite a while. For that Sebastian, I thank you!

M30November 9th 2009.

Tripeology - can you tell me more about the quality of this butchers in the market hall? I yearn for a good butcher locally but I'm getting fed up with all these Gabbots type places. Even the butcher in the Arndale sells frozen meat.

Peter ArcherNovember 9th 2009.

Well said Karen.

chef endoNovember 9th 2009.

EDITORIAL COMMENT: you really can't come on here with unsubstantiated criticisms so we've removed this rant.

tripeologyNovember 9th 2009.

There are are 2 good traditional butchers and a ropey one. Also the pork butcher sells fantastic pies, the fishmonger isn't at all bad and the bakers sell great bread(s). Oh, and Clem the greengrocer outside has a good range and is excellent value - as his lengthy queues would testify. Admittedly, the surroundings aren't luxurious, but its good to know its there.

johnPNovember 9th 2009.

Given it a few chances but it's not for me, up their own arse service and average food . Manchester outpost of the Alderley Edge see and be seen set !

James TNovember 9th 2009.

The mealy mouthed bunch on here miss the point. They should ask themselves why San Carlo is always so busy? And also maybe they should look between the orange people to all the normal punters.

YorkieNovember 9th 2009.

I'm on the side of the "stay away" brigade if you're more interested in the food than the frantic. Try San Rocco in South King Street instead. Good food, pleasant staff and you'll have change from a fortune.

CasNovember 9th 2009.

I prefer to keep my eyes open and not be so judgemental. The *majority* of the rants are people complaining about service, which is of importance to the more discerning customer, so your point regarding the readship demographic is baseless. Recent ManCon advertisers or partners are the River Room and Obsidian, both a class apart from San Carlo in terms of food and service so, again, your point is baseless. I have never had a pizza at Gusto. Having eaten pizza at Da Michele's in Napoli and it's deadly rival in Rome (name escapes me) I find the best Pizza in the UK to be Pizza Express funnily enough - that probably makes me a peasant though! I believe Gusto does good food easily comparable to the 1980's cuisine at San Carlo and I have never been with 'the girls'. Stock needn't be expensive even when you do 'the job properly' (again no need to attempt to condescend), I had my wedding there as well which they handled superbly. San Carlo certainly has it's place in Manchester but what irked me about you was to question the demographic of those who disagree with you. That is just lame.

JonnyWNovember 9th 2009.

That's not a Spider Crab.

BabyNovember 9th 2009.

I witnessed a most amusing sight this week. One of the San Carlo waiters was attempting to park his car on Southgate, the side street that runs next to San Carlo. He was pipped at the post by a white van man. The waiter then proceeded to launch an avalanche of abuse at the WVM, citing his 'right' to park there as he worked at the 'best' restaurant in the city - he thought it OK to block the street at the same time I may add. EDITORIAL: COMMENT REMOVED: We say this again and again on here. Comment generally or about third party entities. Talk about the restaurant but please do not descend into personal abuse..”

AnonymousNovember 9th 2009.

Is this rant full of the Grauniad brigade? What is this hatred of well dressed people coming in from the suburbs for a night out for a bit of glitz? They keep the town economy going as sounds like you lot haven't got two pennies to rub together. This for me is the best Italian in town for both food and buzz. Veal should be cooked with tomato sauce and spaghetti? A little knowledge is dangerous my old mate, there are fifty different ways of serving veal in Italy proper. Mine is sage butter and a half of lemon. The service is fast and buzzy, this is not a restaurant to sit down in all night. I hope Mancon's advertisers don't do their demographics using you lot, you moaning bunch of cheapscates. So go on, where is more authentic and better; the first person to say Piccolinos.....

frostyNovember 9th 2009.

Offally good... You can get fresh tripe from frostys butchers, in chorlton. Ask for honeycombe... The crab in the pic isn't a spider crab. I think its just normal crab... Went to fat loaf in didsbury for s/day lunch.... Excellent.....

lucky-chrisNovember 9th 2009.

Why not, Roger? I'll go ahead and dispel the myth that these "professionals" you mention all spent 3+ years at Critic School learning to eat food.

Mark Garner, the PublisherNovember 9th 2009.

Jonathan, give it up for chrissakes, take one of the G10's next time. 'So seventies'... spot on! Mind you, the lobster tagliatelle here is awesome. To my mind the whole 'jumbled up' service is done on purpose, it feels great, like wearing a polo shirt underneath an old frayed business shirt, its comfortable, warm and friendly in it's own way.

GordoNovember 9th 2009.

Nicely said Karen, particularly the inverted snobbery bit. The rants do take me back a bit every now and then, it sometimes feels that there are 'tribes' out their who look down on anything that doesn't fit in with that tribes point of view; often they come across as blindingly narrow minded. I am however immensely proud of the rants (in general) on Liverpool Confidential, they nearly always get their points across with wicked humour and no snobbishness at all, absolutely hilarious. Can we have a bit more give and take Guys please, we don't want to be erecting walls to keep the Arabs in/out here.

vivNovember 9th 2009.

We have been regular visitors to San Carlo for 4 years and have always enjoyed the great food and buzzing atmosphere,but it has become increasingly obvious that it has become an olympic event in how to get your customers in and out as fast as possible,preferably without any plates touching the table.At ninety seven pounds for two courses and coffee for two people,very expensive FAST FOOD! Regretfully,won't be going again!!

AntoNovember 9th 2009.

San Carlo is unique in Manchester, and i think Bibis opening will just make them both raise their game. Regarding the San Carlo practice of adding extra items to the bill, i have eaten at both Manchester and Birmingham, got fairly drunk, and realised subsequently that they have undercharged me at both restaurants, i also know friends who have had the same experience - they could make even more money if they sorted this!Anto

AsifNovember 9th 2009.

Don't understand the comments here. This is a magnificent place, go, go, go.

AnonymousNovember 9th 2009.

The first and only time I ate here I asked them what their veal was served with. They said it came by itself. I asked wasn't it traditional to serve veal with spaghetti and tomato sauce? They agreed it was and said I could order that separately which would have meant that my main would have come to around 40 quid. The food here is overrated- it is a 1970s version of Italian food (perhaps this is why confidential like it so much?) and it is a complete rip off. Give me Piccolino anyday.

T LloydNovember 9th 2009.

Very funny you people. I adore San Carlo, it's just one big show as the different 'types' flit past. As for those photographs they are hilarious. I love the big ones near the toilets that alienate every City fan. As for the quality given that several thousand people swan through every week it's not surprising the consistency fluctuates, although I've only ever had decent food there.

jennieNovember 9th 2009.

I've been many times and as Steve says, have found that both the service and the food ranges from amazing to dreadful. If you go "suited and booted" or in a large group you usually get well looked after, but in couples you do tend to get a bit overlooked. The food is usually great though, and the atmosphere and people watching is worth a visit alone. Not many restaurants come with entertainment thrown in.

Mark againNovember 9th 2009.

Lucky-Chris that's an easy one. They are more qualified because they have eaten out more frequently and had to assess food more frequently of all natures and thus have more experience and acquired knowledge. I have been reading Mr Schofield's reviews since he was writer at City Life magazine, he clearly eats out many many more times than most people. I have also found his words usually accurate. That's why I would trust the review here rather than the inconsidered hasty comments of the 'ranters'.

Mark RafterNovember 9th 2009.

You can't see the wood for the trees can you lucky-chris? Maybe the customers should cook the food not the chef.

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