San Carlo in St James’s: The warm and welcoming taste of Italy
Most major cities across the UK are familiar with the San Carlo restaurant group, as the last 20 years have seen them go from strength to strength. Their latest opening brings them to a prime spot in St James’s just off Regent Street with a customised menu in tow. Keen to distance themselves from being branded as just another Italian chain, each restaurant strives to be different with their own unique offering.
Booked in for an early evening dinner, we arrived to diners sitting outside enjoying the sun and a few occupied tables inside. The main space was lavishly decked out with elegant Italian-style furnishings and decor: a cream and gold colour theme, white table linen and leather-upholstered seating. The restaurant felt a little quiet when we first arrived and it wasn’t until a bit later on that it got livelier and the atmosphere picked up.
The food menu was pretty extensive so you’ll want to take your time choosing. We started with some aperitif cocktails – a classic Bellini and an Aperol Spritz which packed a healthy dose of alcohol to get the evening going.
To start we had the Andria Burrata with Beetroot, Avocado and Pesto. The burrata was creamy and indulgent – the sweet beetroot and citrus tomato helped to keep the balance, but for me, the avocado didn’t provide enough contrast and I would have preferred to see more of the accompanying ingredients instead. We also had the Spicy Tuna Carpaccio with Pachino Tomato and Summer Herbs. The carpaccio had just the right amount of spice, giving the sweet, delicate flesh of the tuna a slight tang. This dish was fresh, beautifully presented and ideal for a light starter.
For mains we shared the Cocco Linguine with Lobster and French Beans. This dish was comforting, with the linguine carrying the creamy sweetness of the lobster and pairing it with ripened tomatoes to create a delicious, warming dish. The result was indulgent and rich without being too heavy or overpowering.
We also had the Tuscan Beef (Sirloin 40 days) Tagliata with Roasted Baby Gem Lettuce and Rosemary. The beef had come all the way from Italy and was cooked to perfection, melting like butter in the mouth and accompanied by the lettuce and a side of sautéed potatoes.
And last, but certainly not least, was dessert. Here is where I felt the restaurant excelled. We were presented with a choice of Italian classics and went for the tiramisu and the pistachio cake. The former featured a coffee gelatine top layer which really brought that coffee flavour through and counteracted the sweetness. It was absolutely delicious and an inventive way to give an old staple a twist. The latter was equally delicious, with a lovely moist consistency, packed full of nutty flavours without being overly sickly.
While San Carlo does technically fall into the Italian chain restaurant category, it’s certainly the best of the bunch. Maybe it’s the fresh produce they import from Italy, or perhaps it’s the service which captures the warm, welcoming spirit of a family-run restaurant.
In terms of the food, you’re not going to be met with anything groundbreaking, but they do what they do extremely well: classic, hearty Italian dishes packed full of flavour.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Photos: Daniel Donovan
To book a table at San Carlo, 2 Regent Street St James’s London SW1Y 4LR, call 0203 7780 768 or visit their website here.