The sweet taste of au­then­tic­ity

>> FUN FACTS: SO MUCH GO­ING ON AT THIS YEAR’S SWALLOWFIELD SHOW Car­luc­cio’s – an un­hur­ried cel­e­bra­tion of Ital­ian cui­sine SEE PAGE 19

Star Courier (Surrey & Hants) - - DINING OUT - By Laura Nightin­gale

SUR­REY is awash with Ital­ian chain restau­rants; from Pizza Ex­press and Zizzi to Prezzo and Bella Italia, it seems that most town cen­tres now have one of each.

So what is so spe­cial about Car­luc­cio’s?

Well for a start, these are not quite so plen­ti­ful.

There are five in Sur­rey – one each in Wok­ing, Wal­ton, Cob­ham, Kingston and Reigate.

More sig­nif­i­cantly, the eatery keeps au­then­tic Ital­ian cook­ing at its heart and ex­cel­lent cus­tomer ser­vice.

The chain was founded in Lon­don in 1999 by noted chef and restau­ra­teur An­to­nio Car­luc­cio who de­vel­oped his pas­sion for food grow­ing up in the culi­nary- rich Pied­mont re­gion of Italy.

His team visit Italy as of­ten as pos­si­ble to meet pro­duc­ers, pick olives, taste wine, talk to chefs and im­merse them­selves in Ital­ian food cul­ture to bring back to the UK.

From the mo­ment my mother and I stepped in­side the stylish glass- fronted Wok­ing town cen­tre restau­rant, a friendly wait­ress was only too will­ing to guide us to our pol­ished ta­ble for two.

Car­luc­cio’s is a cel­e­bra­tion of Ital­ian cui­sine, fam­ily and friends and fine wine. This was ev­i­dent from a menu rich in au­then­tic dishes, from com­fort bowls of pasta to el­e­gant plates of meat and fish.

A num­ber of dishes are marked with a blue An­to­nio Sig­na­ture stamp, cap­tur­ing his phi­los­o­phy of cre­at­ing food with a min­i­mum of fuss and max­i­mum of flavour.

From bread baked on site to pasta made fresh each morn­ing, this was no or­di­nary Ital­ian chain.

Cala­mari, pro­sciutto, prawns, fo­cac­cia, chicken liver pate and shar­ing plates were among the starters, but we were both drawn to the br­uschetta topped with fresh to­mato, roasted pep­pers, basil and oregano (£ 5.50).

Shortly af­ter each re­ceiv­ing our glass of prosecco (£ 4.95), our first cour­ses ar­rived from the bustling kitchen.

A thick wedge of warm and nutty sliced bread made up the first layer of our starter.

Fresh chunks of to­mato and pep­per formed a vi­brant fruity sec­ond layer be­fore the pile was topped with pep­pery rocket and pun­gent herbs.

Each bite was so won­der­fully fresh and so dis­tinc­tively Mediter­ranean.

Tak­ing the time to en­joy good food with the ones you love is the ethos of Ital­ian cul­ture and at Car­luc­cio’s no­body is ever rushed.

The sec­ond course of our lazy lunch was just as tempt­ing as our first.

While my mum tucked into a clas­sic heap of spaghetti tossed with lob­ster, crab, cray­fish, fresh to­mato, basil and chilli (£ 14.95), I or­dered a new dish, Bis­tecca Di Fesa (£ 16.50).

A ten­der, grass- fed 7oz pan fried, medium rare rump steak was served on a bed of green beans, can­nellini beans, cherry toma­toes and rocket. The flavour­some meat was beau­ti­fully sliced and fanned out along­side the bean con­coc­tion.

While the beef had a lus­cious salty crust and a mouth- wa­ter­ing pink mid­dle, the can­nellini beans of­fered a thick creamy bite and the toma­toes a rich and plummy ad­di­tion.

It was a hearty, whole­some dish and a gen­er­ous sized lunch. With that in mind we couldn’t squeeze in a dessert, de­spite the tan­ta­liz­ing sound of tiramisu, panna cotta and lemon tart and choco­late torte.

We re­luc­tantly pulled our­selves from our com­fort­able chairs and headed for Wolsey Place for a post- lunch shop­ping trip.

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Craig Fraser © Fraser­shot Ltd 2012

The Wok­ing restau­rant is one of five Car­luc­cio’s in Sur­rey.

Ten­der, grass- fed 7oz pan fried, medium rare rump steak was served on a bed of green beans, can­nellini beans, cherry toma­toes and rocket.

The starter re­flected the ethos of Ital­ian cul­ture.

Car­luc­cio’s: Cook­ing at its heart, along with ex­cel­lect cus­tomer ser­vice.

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