When you visit a restaurant with celebrity backing, do you think of the chef-backer? When I patronise a celebrity owned restaurant, I’ll be honest, images bubble in my mind like a simmering pot of minestrone, of the chef in question. Of course, I didn’t expect Antonio Carluccio to leap out from behind the panettone when I dined at Carluccio’s at the Intu Derby (although that would have been memorable and very cool).
Carluccio’s is the latest restaurant to open in Derby’s Intu. Located on the first floor replete with floor to ceiling windows, it’s a great spot for people watching. The window seats are the best for this sort of activity (I’m an avid people watcher and think it’s a skill – it should be an Olympic sport). I cannot wait to pop there first thing Saturday morning for breakfast whilst I’m en route to the NEC for the BBC’s Good Food Show (more on that later).
Carluccio’s have cultivated a welcoming vibe. The open-plan layout and humungous windows make the space feel expansive and airy. It’s a nice space to be, especially with the foodie inspired artwork adorning the walls.
The entrance is also where the deli-larder is housed, which is a veritable treat. I had to tear myself away from the larder section with great difficulty, as the selection of breads, pasta, and sauces all looked delicious. You can sit down to eat, take a wander in between courses, pick up some sauce and pay for everything at the end of the meal. Pretty nifty if you ask me. I asked for a seat towards the back of the restaurant (coincidentally on fetching midnight blue leather), as I had to do an interview with the GM and so preferred the quieter end (more on the interview later).
Carluccio’s boasts an excellent menu selection including a vegetarian and vegan friendly menu. This is great if you’re celebrating National Vegan Month this November too.
My dining partner had the Re Ale, reminiscent of an IPA, with a refreshing lemon aftertaste. Deciding to break with tradition (Bellini is my go-to cocktail), I chose the Bellisimo cocktail. This is like a peach Bellini, as it still has the peach juice and peach liqueur components. The Bellisimo is the elder sister, which has more vigour due to the addition of pink grapefruit juice.
We kicked off with home-baked focaccia, which is freshly baked each morning. This Ligurian recipe is one of the most traditional and the results are pillowy soft bread. I found it great liberally dunked into the accompanying balsamic swirled olive oil.
I had the crab macaroni to start (Blue swimming crab meat, cheese sauce, garlic breadcrumb). This was a generous portion, the tangy crab meat marrying well with the unctuous cheese sauce. The garlic crumbs were a delight (I love garlic, I’d be a vampire’s worst nightmare) and elevated the dish to the next level.
My dining partner had the prawn marinara (marinated prawns, olive oil, white wine, tomatoes, chilli, basil, fennel seeds, ciabatta for dipping). The prawns were tender and the sauce fragrant with baby plum tomatoes. I would have liked to see the prawns fully shelled (they still had tails on. This is just a personal thing, not an issue, to avoid fluid eating of this dish.
For main, I had the duck pappardelle (slow cooked duck, pork, pancetta and mushroom ragù, garlic breadcrumbs). I loved this dish. Fat pasta ribbons cooked perfectly al dente, plus the meaty sauce with an earthy depth from the mushrooms was very good indeed.
My dining partner had lamb alla griglia (chargrilled lamb chops, caponata). These aromatic chops had the most gorgeous, chargrilled fragrance. They were a little on the chewy side, but the flavours were very good. The accompanying caponata was tasty, I’m just not sure the temperatures went very well. Caponata is a chilled aubergine stew, which I think may work better in warmer temperatures as part of a summer menu, not with hot lamb chops.
We were very full, so decided to take-away dessert. You can choose from the dessert menu, or pick a sweet treat from the deli. I chose carrot cake, which is one of the best I have ever tasted. Moist sponge, not too sweet, with the most amazing cream cheese topping was heaven on plate.
Service on the night was brilliant. A special shout-out to Cristina Marino and sous chef Santino Maniscalchi, for sublime service, gorgeous smiles and for making us feel super welcome. Carluccio’s is a fun, cool place to dine and hang out. I will most certainly be back for that divine carrot cake and to try out more of the menu.
Star Rating 1-10 (1: “I hate it. I’d rather eat my own shoe” – 10: “I love it. I’d sell my kidney for a meal here”.)
Value for money: 7.5
Rate or Slate? Rate. (I am still dreaming of that carrot cake.)
Address: Level Two, Intu Derby, West Mall, Derby DE1 2PL
Tel: 01332 367645