Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Carluccio's Caffe, London

Carluccio's Caffe
8 Market Place,
London W1W 8AG

Tel: 020 7636 2228

Carluccio's Caffes are my favourite chain of restaurants. I've been to a few different ones now, and there are always plenty of vegetarian options on the menu and they are really tasty.

On Sunday, we braved the crowds to go Christmas shopping in Oxford Street. Market Square is just around the back of Selfridges, so when I found out there was a Carluccio's there it made the choice of lunch a no-brainer.

The restaurant itself is on two floors, one of which is a basement. We sat in the basement part so it didn't feel quite so airy as the other Caffes I've been to. That aside, the service was good and the food as tasty as ever.

On their Autumn/Winter menu there are seven meat-free main courses, which is pretty good for any restaurant that doesn't specialise in non meat dishes. Many of the dishes were on previous menus (Penne Giardiniera - penne with courgette, chilli and deep fried spinach balls is a special favourite of mine) but today I fancied something warming and filling.

I ordered a Pasta e Fagioli soup (thick soup of pasta, creamy borlotti beans and vegetables
drizzled with extra virgin olive oil
) followed by Lasagnetta con Porcini (a vegetarian baked lasagna with layers of porcini mushrooms and b├ęchamel sauce.)

To be honest, the soup would've been enough for me - it came in a fairly large bowl, so there was plenty of it and it was accompanied by a huge 'slab' of gourgeous bread. The soup itself was thick, full of beans, tasty and very filling.

My eyes always seem to automatically skip over any lasagne dish on a menu - I guess that's just too many veggie lasagnes when I first turned vegetarian - so I was particularly pleased that I'd picked this one.

The dish wasn't huge - which given the soup was just as well in these circumstances - but it wasn't small either. Layers of mushrooms, which looked like a mix of porcini and chestnut, covered in white sauce and cheese were interspersed between pasta sheets. It tasted great. Had I made it, I would probably have added a tomato sauce in an effort to be 'traditional' but this would have spoiled it. The cheese and white sauce were enough to give substance to the lasagne without taking away for the flavour of the mushrooms.

While we were there, people were finishing off the last of the items on the Breakfast Menu. I think that an early morning visit to one of Carluccio's Caffes might not be far away.

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