Thursday, 12 January 2012

Wednesday - Joe's birthday at Carluccios

So Wednesday was Joe's birthday (33, since you're asking...) and he didn't want any huge celebrations.  No celebrations on a birthday is a bit alien to me - it's a bit like Christmas without turkey - bah humbug.  So we decided to go for a quiet dinner (with enough time to get home and watch the Liverpool v Man City match - good skills Liverpool!) at Carluccios.

Carluccios arrived in Leeds last year, the latest restaurant to crop up on Greek Street.  It's an Italian bistro/deli/coffee bar under the Antonio Carluccio brand, serving "authentic Italian food at great prices"  (ref Carluccios' website).  We've been in for coffee and some deli treats before (great olives and fun varieties of pasta) but not dinner.

Off to Carluccios we trotted, armed with a voucher for half price main courses (it is January, after all!).  The voucher entitled us to 2 for 1 main courses from the salad, pasta and secondi menus.  After some deliberation between pastas and the secondi, I opted for the seabass with tomato salsa and sauteed potatoes, while Joe made a last minute curve ball change to the fritto misto.  We also had some olives to nibble on while making our choices.

The Carluccios menu isn't huge.  This is usually a good thing, as a huge menu always strikes huge, clanging warning bells of outside catering and microwaves with me.  However, I didn't fancy pasta, and the secondi options weren't massively inspiring.  The seabass looked nice though - simple ingredients done well are always a winner.  It just didn't win me over unfortunately.  There was nothing overtly bad about it - perhaps the seabass was a bit overcooked and under seasoned - but in general the whole thing was just lacking.  Simple dishes need amazing ingredients, and I wasn't convinced they had them.  Everything was just a little bland.  Poor Joe, well, he chose badly.  The fritto misto was a mix of calamari, whitebait, prawns and seabass.  Everything tasted exactly the same, and while the calamari was cooked well, the whitebait and prawns were over cooked.  Being honest, the whole experience was just very underwhelming.

To top it off, the atmosphere was totally flat, despite the restaurant being quite busy.  AND they knew it was Joe's birthday before we went, we had birthday cards, presents, and "happy birthday" confetti all over the table, and not one of the serving staff wished him a happy birthday (or really cracked a smile).  It was all just rather functional.

So over all, faintly disappointing, but nothing too dramatic, which says it all really.

But on the plus side, Joe returned home to a surprise birthday cake.  As always with my cakes, it tasted better than it looked (and perhaps some day someone will teach me how to ice a cake properly!)

Starting with the good - the birthday cake - covered with glitter, naturally
Fritto misto
Seabass with tomato salsa and sauteed potatoes
Me with a beer - breaking our no drinks during the week - shhhh
And the birthday boy

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