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San Carlo wines

Philip Hamer investigates a top city centre Italian restaurant’s wine list

Published on April 8th 2008.

San Carlo wines

Until recently some of the worst restaurant wine lists could be seen at Italian restaurants in Manchester city centre, but all that that began to change several years ago with the emergence of Stock on Norfolk Street. This deservedly collected awards for its wine list. San Carlo over the past four years has enhanced the credibility of Italian wine lists in the city centre.

The range is comprehensive with over 50 wines, ninety percent of which is Italian. There are only three clichéd French wines offered to those poor souls who when in Rome don’t drink what the Romans drink.

The range is comprehensive with over 50 wines, ninety percent of which is Italian. There are only three clichéd French wines offered to those poor souls who when in Rome don’t drink what the Romans drink. There are decent house reds and whites (£13.95 per bottle), a long list of wines offered by the glass, and it’s good to report that there is a decent choice of half bottles. They also have – although this list is subject to alteration - a list of up to ten each of eclectic red and white wines on promotion.

Italian wine, perhaps more than that of any other country, needs food. The career waiters and managers here receive extensive wine tuition to make sure they can match wines to the food customers order.

Since coming to Manchester Sven Goran Eriksson has made San Carlo his second home: he seems to fulfil this restaurant’s desired customer profile. He seems to like getting his wines chosen by the waiters as well. I can’t see them getting away with that with Sir Alex Ferguson, a man who knows his Pouilly Fume from his Pouilly Fuisse, but with the advice offered here at least Sven won’t have to text Nancy on his Italian wine choice.

The list is impressive with, thank goodness, only two examples each of Chianti and the currently ubiquitous Pinot Grigio. Too often thin and acidic these wines have become the battery-reared hens of the wine business. Sicily and Sardinia have long produced fantastic red and white wines. The local Cannonau grape in Sardinia produces warm and interesting red wines. San Carlo has an excellent example for £20 95 on its current promotions list.

Restaurant director Marcello and general manager Italo have chosen the three following wines that in their opinion would best complement a special meal at San Carlo. Colomba Platino IGT (£24), a delicate and fruity white from Sicily and would be even better with seafood. Taurasi DOC (£33.95) A Campanian red that is one of Italy’s outstanding red wines. So softly tannic that it would go with any of the restaurant’s richer dishes. Finally if you can’t afford the rare Amarone on offer at £200 a bottle - they only make 200 cases in any one vintage - you could console yourself with the Petra (£59) which is a fine example of the super Tuscan reds that often beat the French at their own claret making game.

San Carlo
40-42 King S West
0161 834 6226

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

AnonymousApril 8th 2008.

Dona ya noow the staff here speak very little English (MY ARSE).Sparkling or still water sir. I personally don’t give a **** if BeckHam and Robie Williams come in holding hands im only interested in my food and my service people watching what’s that all about

Eddy JApril 8th 2008.

Ktfairy - i have to disagree with your blinkered comments. I visit San Carlo on a weekly basis and regularly take important clients with me. Everytime i have a fantastic meal, top-notch wine and experience probably the best restaurant atmosphere in Manchester. In my opinion San Carlo is the best restaurant in Manchester.

English JohnApril 8th 2008.

Wow, Prof Anonymous, it looks like you've got this English lark down to a T.

GrahamApril 8th 2008.

I've stopped going there now... fed up of people staring at me and stopping me for my autograph. Me and my celeb friends now go to that new exclusive place... Pasta Hut. Proper authentic italian food there...

JoApril 8th 2008.

Ignore all the negative comments here folks. Take yourself along. James is right, it's the liveliness of San Carlo which makes it memorable. A great place for friends.

Ellie May RayApril 8th 2008.

used to go to San Carlo quite regularly with my hubby but we both got sick of being dumped on a table in the side room. I assume this is because there was only the two of us. This policy STINKS!!! I found this part of the restaurant to be shabby and far removed from the buzz of the main area. I felt as if we were being put in the Naughty Corner at school! We voted with our feet.

katiechopsApril 8th 2008.

I've been to San Carlos several times and found the food not very special - everything is over salted. I also agree with those who say they have a tendency to sneak extra drinks onto the bill.

Jackie from WorsleyApril 8th 2008.

Went to San Carlo last night for a birthday celebration - nothing to celebrate at San Carlo. We went for the later 9.30 sitting which was fine, however,we weren't allowed to add drinks that we had at the bar to ouroverall bill, we were made to pay there and then!!. Why? Mozzarella starter was cold. Hubby's main course came without his side order; my main of risotto was warm, not hot. The side order never arrived and no apology from the senior waiters was offered, despite our complaints. Not good service at all from Manchester's top rated Italian Restaurant. Don’t go there if you want a good value for money celebratory night out - you won't get one there!”

ktfairyApril 8th 2008.

I know a lot of people love the food here - but I have never found it all that special. Anyone else find this?

RefApril 8th 2008.

Ben, I agree, how would they gain? And given it's always so full why would the business itself bother? I suspect jealousy as well. Or that very healthy British distrust of success. San Carlo is a fabulous success. It is tremendous fun to dine there.

chandley1976April 8th 2008.

Bowk, Agreed! Manchester city centre is obsessed with celeb haunts and trendy places, ala Panacea etc, and San Carlo is pretty much the restaurant equivalent of Panacea. Good but still massively overrated food and drink, average and slightly arrogant service, and a set of bleach blonde wannabes sat in the window, trying to look important. The best Italian in Manchester? Not by a country mile, unless you define the best as meaning the one that your 21 year old mates, who dont understand food, would give you the most kudos for being seen in.Ramsons in Ramsbottom, (dont laugh!), Bury, is by far the best and most authentic Italian in the north west. This small, intimate, top quality place is a must go to place for any local foodie.And guess what, you go there for the food and drink, noto the image. Incidentally, its probably most expensive than San Carlo too, with not a spag bol anywhere in sight. San Carlo posh? Dont make me laugh.

BenApril 8th 2008.

Reading the earlier comments, either several San Carlo competitors are coming here to spread doom & gloom - admittedly a possibility - or the establishment contains staff members with a penchant for padding drinks bills. It is unclear to me how this would benefit individual staff members. So is it actually a policy there, or a myth? Perhaps someone in the trade could explain?

fsihmongerApril 8th 2008.

Great fish here. Everyone always seems to forget that. Have the fsih mixed grill. I note that people complain about the service, you just don't get it, they are all bloody mental, but i think it adds to the experience.

BrelApril 8th 2008.

I've eaten there a few times, and I have also been overcharged on the wine front. On my last trip I had drinks at the bar followed by 2 bottles with our meal. On the bill we had 3 bottles, and upon drawing this to our waiters attention he implied that I was in the wrong. I firmly advised him that he was mistaken, but I had to return the bill twice before they got it right.I eat in the Birmingham restaurant 3 weeks ago. There I had to physically stand in front of the cashier to get my bill.

bobbyApril 8th 2008.

Always check your bill when you go to San carlo's - I love the place, but they have a tendency (the last 2 times I have been) to sneak a bottle of champagne on the bill instead of two glasses.

King Harold IIApril 8th 2008.

Bit of a chip on that shoulder eh Steve?

ktfairyApril 8th 2008.

Eddy J - in what way am I blinkered? - I've been here quite a few times, once my choice and other times due to work and I have never had what I would call a great meal. It is certainly not a bad meal - but it is never a great meal. I have not had any drinks added to my bill that I didn't drink. I do not work for a rival - I just don't think the food is as good as many other restaurants in Manchester and for atmosphere and dining with friends I would go to Gaucho or Grill in the Alley instead.

FHApril 8th 2008.

The head waiter at this restaurant has a serious attitude problem...he needs to learn how to smile

RayApril 8th 2008.

As this is a wine related article, I will stick to that. 50 bottles does not constitute a comprehensive list - in fact, it's positively weedy. Stock has a rather better wine list, and even Piccolino has a similar number (albeit rather tired and conventional in choice). You need at least 100 bottles on your list to have any credibility. Apart from the wine, I thought it a decent enough place, but that's it. Nothing special on the food front, but it does have a buzzy atmosphere.

PaulApril 8th 2008.

Oh my mistake i just wanted good food and service.

JennyApril 8th 2008.

I have been to San Carlos twice previously; on my 2nd visit the food arrived warm (I prefer my food to be hot!) and service was slow, but I thought I would give them another try and go for a third visit. I agree with FH, the head waiter (grey haired guy with glasses) does have an attitude problem and doesn't know how to speak or smile but is very good at grunting. He practically threw the menues on the table and then walked off! The other waiters were very pleasant but service was v slow, we waited well over an hour for our food. I suppose being blessed with youthful looks the head waiter thought we were students - can't afford to eat, can't afford to tip therefore not worth making the effort. I was very disappointed and embarrassed for introducing my friends to this place. I won't be back and certainly won't be recommending any clients or any more friends to this overrated restaurant.

AnonymousApril 8th 2008.

it baffles me that everyone complains about san carlo yet they still go there on mass!!!!! stupid people, its not all that good

JamesApril 8th 2008.

Honestly you people, one bad experience and you condemn out of hand. San Carlo is so popular because it provides good food in an exciting ambience. Dining is not all about the food, it's about the atmosphere of the place, people watching, it's a night out, fun and so on. San Carlo provides perhaps the best people watching of all Manchester dining places. The food is good, if not exceptional, as well.Put the two together and you get a place which is booked up weekends in advance.

Eddy JApril 8th 2008.

Ktfairy - i have to disagree with your blinkered comments. I visit San Carlo on a weekly basis and regularly take important clients with me. Everytime i have a fantastic meal, top-notch wine and experience probably the best restaurant atmosphere in Manchester. In my opinion San Carlo is the best restaurant in Manchester.

AnonymousApril 8th 2008.

You can say that again. Oh you did. Important clients bet there pissing themselves

BowksApril 8th 2008.

If it is top quality Italian wines you are after, look no further than the downstairs section of Ramsons in Ramsbottom. Chris Johnson has one fo the best collections of Italian only wines matched with some good food. If you buy the bottle there they will also chuck in a load of food to wash it down with. Well worth a trip out of the city centre for if Italian wines are your thing.

JohnApril 8th 2008.

That Phil Hamer...I taught him everything he knows about wine. Actually, not really but we had some good tastings at Willoughbys on Cross St in the late 80's. I think it's now a sex shop or financial institution or summat now.

manager san carloApril 8th 2008.

San carlo is very busy at both lunch and dinner every day of the week. Indeed we are going to sometimes make mistakes on bills but we find it very upsetting that some people assume we are doing this on purpose. I don't think San Carlo could have become the success it has by ripping off its customers! Jackie, we have a policy only on saturday and friday nights that drinks have to be paid at the bar and cannot be transferred to the table. This is because of the amount of people waiting at the bar. Hopefully soon we will be introducing a new system that will allow us to do so.

SteveApril 8th 2008.

Overated gagrbage...full of people watching posers who would happily gnaw a tramps shoe if it was drizzled in balsamic vinegar.

Nathan CohenMarch 13th 2010.

I visit Sancarlo in King Street West, almost daily, sometime I have a meal sometime I just have a drink at the bar, I just love the atmosphere of the place and the food of course. I love the fact that everyday there is always someone famous. I love football, and is great to see all the players from different teams dining at Sancarlo . I always liked as a player Mancini (Manchester City Manager). I am so happy that in many occasions I have been able to chat with him about football while at Sancarlo. The man is great and so down to earth, He tells me that Sancarlo is his favourite Restaurant in Manchester and that whenever he can he eats there he thinks that is better than many restaurants in Italy. So maybe at the Manchester News they didn’t do their homework properly when they wrote in an article that Mancini his an habitué of Rosso.

Leigh ScottMarch 13th 2010.

Nathan =Transparent

NortherngeezerMarch 14th 2010.

FFS Nathan........................yer either Mancini's dad or the owner of San Carlo (2 words, not 1), fess oop, which one??.

AnonymousMarch 15th 2010.

Given the slightly broken English, I would hazard a guess that Nathan is a bored Italian waiter who wrote this on his lunch hour.

Suzanne AckermanMarch 15th 2010.

Don't mind paying for drinks at the bar in cash if I am early and want a drink first. What annoys me however is when I am expected to buy a drink because my table isn't ready at the time I booked it! At Gusto (both AE and Didsbury) when this has happened, the manager has comped the drinks.

San Carlo customer service is the worst I have ever experienced in Manchester.

GordoMarch 16th 2010.

Suzy, I have no problem with at all; I enjoy a drink at the bar personally. As for San Carlo, the clipped service is all part of the theatre, why do you think it's the busiest gaff in the area? I don't think you have ever worked in the F&B industry have you?

Suzanne AckermanMarch 16th 2010.

Actually I worked for 3 years at a restaurant prominently mentioned on this website! We never treated the customers like that. To be fair to San Carlo they knocked 50% of the bill because they admitted it had been a shambles, but they were not very apologetic.

Smyth HarperMarch 16th 2010.

Gordo are you seriously saying that we should expect to have sh*t service in a restaurant if it's posh enough? Didn't realise you were such an old snob lol.

NortherngeezerMarch 17th 2010.

C'mon.........its poncy eyetie for poncy footballers an wannabee's, you've gotta expect shyte service unless your one of the 'beautifull' people surely!!!!. The foods not THAT great either.

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