the UK based Restaurant and Hotel Review
comes to Kingston
Priscilla & Antonio prove that a chain can still give quality
If you grew up in southwest London, Richmond was the place to be, and be seen. That's where the Rolling Stones first made their mark, amongst other bands of the 60s and early 70s. Kingston was the seat of government for Surrey (yawn!) and once Bentall's closed its doors at five thirty, that was that. Kingston was dead. But all that has changed. Even Surbiton, the Bexhill of the suburbs, is now pulsating mildly, if not actually throbbing.
Update April 2003
Charles Pelham loved
the one in Smithfield
Kingston has suddenly woken up to the fact that it has a waterfront, and the developers have taken advantage of our need to gaze across water, or stroll along it. Messing about in boats, or watching others get wet still holds our imagination. The Charter Quay area has recently opened with an enormous branch of Casa (packed) and, yet more welcome, the fourth of Antonio and Priscilla Carluccio's Italian caffé restaurants cum food shops.
With its blue colour theme and metropolitan styling, it reminded me a little bit of Conran's Bluebird Cafe in Chelsea. There is a wonderful Italian deli at one end where you can buy breads, pasta, and all the ingredients for the mother and father of all antipasto. The tempting array of jars and bottles gleams seductively from shelves and racks around the dining area. But make sure you sit on the comfortably padded brasserie bench seats rather than the wooden chairs.
The menu is short and practical. You won't find an endless list of pasta, differentiated only by various gloopy sauces. The small selection included an excellent fettucine with very tasty funghi, something of a Carluccio speciality - his Covent Garden restaurant, Neal Street, is celebrating the start of the truffle season as I write. Neither are there any pizzas: there being no shortage of pizzerias, the Carluccios sensibly decided not to go down that route. The good news is that the prices are genuinely great value. My main course Ossobuco Milanese was the costliest item on the menu at £9.95. It came with a creamy risotto whose yellow flavour did not offer an empty promise, it really tasted of saffron.
The antipasto was also good; my partner noticed how fresh the previously cooked vegetables were. She is a real fan of antipasto, but is often disappointed by stale oil and wilting salads - this was all crisp and pristine. And the breads - do take care, they are simply the best appetite wreckers ever! We got through two bowls of peppery green olive oil with ours! Dish of the day was bruschetta with more funghi piled high - at £4.95 it was a more than generous starter, or perhaps a neat supper dish. At least try to make room for the desserts, especially the gelati - these are Italian ice creams par excellence - velvet smooth and intensely flavoured.
The wine list is brief, Italian, and well chosen. The service was mainly English speaking of the southern hemispherical kind, which equates to eager, friendly, helpful and attractive young people of either sex. The chef was English, which again proves that you don't have to be Italian to cook good food. But it helps to have Antonio Carluccio as your mentor and guide!
Oh, and don't miss the coffee - it's a veritable Vespa in a cup - close your eyes and you could almost be in Verona!
Clifford Mould October 2001 PS went back with a few friends in February 2002 and it was just as good. And the prices were exactly the same - a very good sign! Update April 2003: Most expensive dishes on the menu are the Tuna and the steak, both a very competitive £10.50. This chain continues to deliver!
Charter Quay Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey
Tel: 020 8549 5898 (reservation recommended - it was very busy when we went on a Thursday evening)
In the West End: Carluccio's at Fenwick, New Bond Street, London W1 020 7629 0699
Carluccio's Caffé, St Christopher's Place, London W1 T: 020 7935 5927
and also at: Canary Wharf T: 020 7719 1749, Ealing T: 020 8566 4458, St Albans T: 01727 837681, Bluewater T: 01322 387276
Don't forget Carluccio's flagship restaurant : The Neal Street Restaurant, 26 Neal Street, Covent Garden, London WC2 020 7836 8368
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