We review the newly opened neighbourhood restaurant serving authentic Italian food and hospitality.
Technically, San Carlo is a chain with more than 20 restaurants across the UK. But don’t let that put you off. In reality, San Carlo is hardly a chain restaurant at all, with each location sporting its own identity, a renowned chef and a bespoke menu.
Their latest opening brings them to London’s St James’s, just off Regent Street – a prime location for tourists and theatre-goers.
With no shortage of Italian restaurants in the centre of town, we headed down to see how London’s latest Italian faired up.
The first thing you notice as you enter the restaurant is the hospitable waiting staff raring to settle you in. It feels like a true family-run eatery, with an ‘everyone’s welcome’ atmosphere. We’ve heard the other venues are just as welcoming so it must be the San Carlo way.
The dining room is stylish and sophisticated. A beautiful marble top bar grabs your eye as soon as you walk in, tables are covered with luxurious linens and speakeasy-style lamps give the restaurant a cosy feel.
We started with cocktails. My guest and I enjoyed one of London’s best Bloody Marys and a masterfully mixed Negroni. The bar’s a great spot for pre-dinner or post-shopping cocktails even if you aren’t planning on eating.
The menu at San Carlo St James’s is all about the classics.
Food is fresh, unassuming and plentiful, with Head Chef Davide Alberti championing a traditional Italian cooking style – though he has given one or two dishes a modern twist.
Much like the portions, the menu is huge. We began with a mini version of the tagliolini main (a delicate, ribbon style pasta) which was topped with lashings of sweet crab, lemon and saffron.
For mains, the slow-cooked bolognese really hit the spot. An upgrade on a classic, the dish was satisfyingly meaty and the homemade spaghetti was thick, chewy and delicious.
We tried the grill menu too, enjoying a mouth-watering Aberdeenshire beef fillet with a tart Gorgonzola crust and a Barolo jus that I would have happily guzzled an entire jug of.
The desserts were a real highlight, with a tiramisu that looked more like a work of art than a sponge, and a divine pistachio cake with a scoop of heavenly gelato. It goes without saying, the coffee is excellent too.
It’s worth mentioning that service isn’t the fastest, but that’s because the waiting staff dedicate more time to tending to diners than your average London restaurant.
The verdict? San Carlo St James’s sticks to the classics but executes them very well. The interiors are swish, portions substantial and the family-style service can be likened to that of a traditional Italian trattoria.
San Carlo St James’s – Where & How?
San Carlo St James’s is located at 2 Regent Street, St James’s, London SW1Y 4LR. For bookings or to find out more, visit www.sancarlo.co.uk.