Carluccio’s

Popular Italian chain restaurant comes to The Pearl-Qatar Discuss this article

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I was glad I wore comfortable shoes the day I went to Carluccio’s: after parking near most of the other restaurants, my dining companion and I started our evening with a magical mystery tour in search of the restaurant. I felt like I was on my way to grandmother’s house as we crossed two bridges and walked what seemed like miles in our quest for perfectly-made pasta.

At last, after a brief stop at Noodle House, where we barely completed the phrase ‘we’re not eating here, we’re looking for…’ before they cut us off and gave us directions (clearly we weren’t the first), we arrived.

The doors were open onto the ample patio but, with cool winter breezes nipping at our noses, we headed inside to one of the cosy banquettes. Decorated with blues and kitsch Italiana, it’s a family-style eatery, with a deli and small shop with home-cooked items in the back, that seems to be achieving what it set out to do: the restaurant was packed with couples, groups, and families with children of all ages.

But we weren’t here for the ambiance: ambiance is something Doha does really well. Food is another thing entirely. We started with calamari and Carluccio’s signature arancini dish – two traditional rice dumplings, one encasing cheese, the other meat. When it arrives, the calamari is a glistening pile of fishy goodness, perfectly fried: not too oily, not too rubbery, not too battered – just right. I only wish it came with some sort of sauce, instead of just two simple slices of lemon. Next were the arancini, presented like two brown cones. We cut into them with some trepidation: were blackbirds about to fly out? Instead, it was like a risotto, kids-style: sticky rice in a crunchy fried coating around melty cheese or tangy meat sauce, both with major kid appeal (and for adults who like to eat like kids).

The staff were attentive and understanding; we decided to sample a few of their wines, at ridiculously low prices by Doha standards. Although we were disappointed that the lowest- priced bottles (a bargainous QR120) were unavailable, and the selection severely limited, we settled for two glasses of different whites and two of red, requesting extra glasses so we could split. Our slightly obnoxious request was attended to with a smile, winning them major points.

Onwards to the pasta, we decided to go for staples, my companion and I both being fans of hearty Italian fare. We tried the lasagne and the ravioli. The portions were reasonable without being either skimpy and pretentious (so artistic, you wonder where the garnish ends and the food begins), or so big you feel they’ve presented you with a trough and a drop cloth.

The lasagne was everything it should be: warm and gooey with a hearty meat sauce, although the edges seemed a trifle overdone and crisp. The inner part was so succulent, it was a shame they had spoiled it by serving a slice with overcooked edges.

The ravioli came in a rich butter sauce, the smell wafting up the minute it hit the table. The pasta itself was lovely – a nice mix of spinach and cheese in the right proportion – and perfectly cooked, the spinach being fresh and not hitting that cooked-to-a-goop point it so often does. But that sauce! Both my friend and I were torn over the sauce. The first bite was pure, unadulterated buttery bliss. There is nothing better than butter, after all, big gobs of artery-clogging, Julia Child-approved butter. But about halfway through the plate it became a bit cloying, and, despite healthy attempts to cleanse my palate with the delicious wine selection (that’s why I ordered it, honest), I almost wished they had paired the pasta with a simple marinara sauce instead.

Proving herself a dining companion to be reckoned with, my friend soldiered on bravely to dessert: we tried the chocolate fondant and the crema brucaita, their version of crème brulée, as well as the special bicerin beverage: a tray of three cups, containing espresso, milk and melted chocolate that you mix yourself at the table. The drink was the perfect end to a meal that just screamed ‘loiter and socialise’: mixing and comparing dishes and wines, capped by the tactile sensation of stirring in our own strong espresso and thick melted chocolate makes me think this could be a great place for a first date. The fondant was just right as well and may have unseated my previous favourite fondant in Doha. With just the right blend of cake and ooey-gooey goodness, it oozed properly when I cut into it, and was paired with creamy rich vanilla ice cream – just the right complement. The crema was perfect too: topped with chocolate-covered coffee beans, it was a tart and sweet extravaganza, although a little too close to pudding for my friend’s taste.

Overall, Carluccio’s is a solid choice, and an excellent addition to the Pearl pantheon. With a friendly atmosphere and tasty, reasonably priced food, it’s definitely a good spot to while away a sunny Saturday afternoon with the kids, or a Friday evening with friends and a bottle of some of the most reasonably priced wine in the city.

The bill (for two)
1x calamari
QR50
1x arancini QR40
1x ravioli QR64
1x lasagne QR72
1x bread tin QR26
1x fondente QR40
1x crema brucaita QR40
2x bicerin QR36
2x San Pellegrino QR32
Total (incl charges) QR400

By food@timeoutdoha.com
Time Out Doha,

Time Out reviews restaurants anonymously and pays for meals. Of course, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or independence of user reviews.

Details

  • Location: The Pearl-Qatar, Doha
  • Tel: 6690 1777
  • Travel: Porto Arabia, 18 La Croisette
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Times: Open daily 8am-midnight
  • Price: QR350-500
  • Credit Cards Accepted: Yes

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