As the temperature drops, the days shorten and the jingle of Santa’s sleigh comes ever closer, the attention turns to food. Festive food.
And what better way to raise a toast to the season than to let Carluccio’s charming staff take the strain and rustle up something from the Italian chain’s Menu Festivo?
Of course, if you’re honestly not feeling that festive – it’s still three courses of scrumptious Italian food to enjoy away from the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping.
It’s a win-win situation.
Carluccio’s is tucked into the corner of Jubilee Street in Brighton city centre.
Lit with an amber glow from brass light fittings and with piles of pale pink Christmas goodie boxes, the restaurant is a cosy shelter from the biting Brighton winds.
There are two festive menus to choose from – a two-course Menu Festivo for £17.95 (with a dessert for an extra £3) or the three-course Festa Di Natale with a glass of prosecco and a cracker.
There’s plenty of choice – for starters there are four options with something for vegetarians, vegans and the committed carnivores.
Diners can choose from the traditional Italian antipasti selection (this one boasts a board laden with creamy baked ricotta served with pane carasau – a Sardinian flat bread – finocchiona salami, prosciutto Gran Sasso, tasty poponcini peppers and balsamic onions, caponata and green beans with plenty of snap); crostini al funghi (warm mushrooms served with kale, chilli and garlic on toasted ciabatta); pere e gorgonzola (pears and gorgonzola cheese served with the bitter bite of radicchio, green beans, walnuts and tossed in a lemon dressing); and plin in brodo (pinched pasta stuffed with beef and pork and served in chicken broth), a traditional dish from Piemonte which was invented, so the story goes, when a chef was asked to prepare a celebration dinner after a siege ended.
There’s plenty of festive luxury for the main courses: an indulgent lobster, crab and crayfish lasagne topped with garlic breadcrumbs, a 28-day aged ribeye steak with truffle butter (the truffle butter gave the steak a lovely bosky hum, rather than the punch that you often get when restaurants over-use truffle in their dishes) and garlic and rosemary potatoes; a chicken saltimbocca dish with the breast flattened, wrapped in prosciutto and sage and served with a rich Vin Santo and cream sauce; and a mushroom and baby spinach risotto with toasted walnuts and a cheese wafer.
Diners could easily stick to the basic two-course menu and be perfectly satisfied, however the desserts range from rib-sticking (a dense chocolate tart) to the light and creamy (coppa di limoncello mascarpone – which is a swirl of rich mascarpone cream with limoncello, raspberries, crumbled amaretti biscuits and mint).
There are, of course, the usual wine, fizz and craft beer lists, but Carluccio’s is always offering an option of a festive cocktail such as the Disaronno marmalade sour, made with the liqueur and Carluccio’s clementine marmalade.
Of course, the goodies in Carluccio’s are not just for consuming on the premises – the restaurant has a shop where Christmas goodies such as panettone filled with Prosecco cream, stocking fillers including tasty chocolate Santas and even kitchen treats including a beautiful wooden cheese board.
You can even do your shopping while you dine – just select your presents from the table-top gift list and ask the staff to have it all wrapped and ready to collect at the end of your meal.
• The Menu Festivo is £17.95 per person for two courses, add dessert for an additional £3. The Menu Natale is £25.95 per person and includes three courses, a glass of prosecco and a Christmas cracker
Both menus are available until January 3.
Christmas retail products are available in-store and online from the end of October.
To book a table call 01273 690493. See www.carluccios.com for more information.