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[Manchester, city centre] San Carlo

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Harters Feb 1, 2012 02:26 PM

The city may well have had a significant Italian community for 150 years, but they have had minimal impact on the local restaurant scene. San Carlo is an import – one of the branches of the Birmingham based mini-chain – and it’s now certainly one of the fashionable destinations in the city. The place was packed with Manc glitterati. There were a couple of famous faces. And a goodly number of footballers’ wives – either real or wannabe. It was noisy – this is not a place for an intimate dinner for two, not least as you’d have to keep saying “Eh?” to each other. Conversation for a group larger than two might be really difficult.

In the way of many Italian places, the menu is long. Perhaps overly long for them to pull off really good food all the time. But they manage pretty well.

There was a starter of mozzarella en carozza – a fried cheese sandwich by any other name. Good flavours, good texture, although the anchovy sauce was a mere arty drizzle across the plate. There needed to be more. Much more – but then it wouldn’t have looked so pretty. I’d ordered sausages – well, of course I had. Two big meaty ones; a decent coating of a tomato sauce, flavoursome with a little kick of chilli in there. And a dainty square of fried polenta – a bit too thin and crispy, to my mind.

Mozzarella cropped up again in my main course – veal parmigiana. Thin pieces of veal, briefly fried and interleaved on the plate with cheese and ham. Herself had ordered what proved to be the better of the two dishes. Slices of very decent fillet steak sat on a heap of rocket, dressed with a brandy and balsamic reduction. Dead simple; dead good. We shared some green beans which were nicely slightly underdone and some sauté potatoes which were not nicely slightly underdone.

No dessert. Coffee was fine and was served with some lovely shards of sweet pastry dusted with icing sugar.

Service had been spot-on and the only criticism was a billing fault. They had charged us for each having two starters. Quickly rectified with an apology. Call me suspicious but I wonder how often this occurs?

Certainly pleased to have eaten at San Carlo (even though its baby brother Chiccetti, on the opposite side of the road, is getting all the current play). However, this isn’t my sort of preferred gaff and I’d be in no rush to return. Wannabe glitterati will love it.