This amazing restaurant is located at No 2 Regent Street St James and offers the height of Italian cuisine to those in the know. Whilst Jamie Oliver is correct in his assertion that the heart of Italian cooking resides in the homes of its residents with mamma’s best kept secrets and the undeniable alchemy that has been passed down through generation after generation, San Carlo has taken this cuisine to an entirely next level.
Chef Alberico Penati’s pedigree is beyond reproach; he has been the luminary behind such gems as Ristorante Carpaccio, (the first Italian restaurant in France to be awarded a Michelin star), and Alberico at Aspinalls, amongst other lauded venues. Whilst he has no doubt utilised the aforementioned famed Italian knowledge that has been handed down through time immemorial, he has strived tirelessly to create his own take on alta cucina, and the results are simply stunning.
Before I walk you through just how delicious the food here at San Carlo is, however, mention must be made of the décor. As we enter San Carlo, we find ourselves impressed with a contemporary take on an art deco theme, utilising sleek modern lines and two different types of marble to great effect. Far from creating a cold appearance though, the venue is warm and inviting, which is also helped in no small part by pastel coloured furnishings and art works commissioned by Christian Lacroix. The staff here are incredibly helpful and make us feel very much at home from the moment we enter and throughout our meal, which is a delightful culinary journey we most certainly won’t forget in a hurry.
Our meal starts with a tasty amuse bouche in the form of a carrot mouse (we are informed this is made from 4 different types of carrot) accompanied perfectly with a hazelnut crumble; an unusual combination, but the two work very well together and this opens up our palette nicely for the experience to come. For starters, my partner and I order the calamari and the sea bass carpaccio. We do, of course, sample each other’s choices as is our wont, and can therefore confirm that both dishes are perfectly executed and presented. I have to confess that the calamari initially took me by surprise as it is to be found hidden underneath a delicious mound of shoestring tempura zucchini.
Star of the Show
Now here is where the English and Italians deviate in their expectation of what constitutes a meal. Our anglicised view is that we will order three courses as standard, but we are are delighted (yet slightly wary that an ambulance may well have to be ordered too for our journey home), when our friendly waiter cajoles us into a four course meal experience. So we bravely move on to share (obviously as always in the interests of professionalism ahem, and never due to potential food envy) the mantova veal ragu, and the risotto with porcini mushrooms and parma ham.
Both are fantastic, the penne perfectly cooked and the ragu rich yet smooth, and not overpowering, in a white wine sauce: a recipe we are informed originates from Northern Italy. The star of the show though is undoubtedly the risotto. This is presented in a form I can only describe as a marvellous take on a faux Christmas pudding. The rice served in a mound, wrapped in the parma ham and then covered in a mushroom sauce, which somehow is ingeniously made to set before it runs onto the plate. Seeing is believing, and so is tasting – simply wonderful!
Take a break
At this juncture we take a small break before attempting our “meat course”, and should you be brave enough to follow our lead, we suggest you do the same. The portions here are generous, but my god is it worth sampling as much from the menu as possible, because the veal T-bone we try next is heavenly and accompanied perfectly by the Barolo red we are recommended. The meat given a slightly smoky flavour, cooked consummately well, and served in an appropriately smoky jus, we are left in foodie bliss and wanting to shake the hand of Chef Alberico. He really is a master of his trade.
Never ones to turn down dessert, we plump for the pistachio sponge, with pistachio ice cream for my partner and the chocolate and amaretti bonnet for me, accompanied by a sparkling red pudding wine (unusual but oh so good), and a glass of amaretto on the rocks… Having personally thanked the chef and the friendly staff, we are stymied by the lack of aforementioned ambulance, but manage somehow to roll into a cab and vow to return so we may sample more delights from San Carlo at a later date. This is simply a must for lovers of Italian food.
www.sancarlo.co.uk | 020 7930 5933