Reviewed by Louise Totton
My good friend and I were absolutely over the moon to be invited along to Carluccios on Greek Street in central Leeds to try out their gluten free menu.
I will be totally honest and say that I am not usually a massive fan of chain Italians – the menus can be a little ‘samey’, and they just don’t feel like the kind of place that it is a treat to eat in. Having said that, as a coeliac, I find just finding somewhere with a decent choice and an real understanding of cross contamination and food safety a real challenge, so I was really looking forward to trying a chain that I have never eaten out in before.
The Greek Street restaurant is located a really easy 5 minute walk from Leeds train station, and is just minutes away from the Trinity shopping centre and lots of nice bars. We had booked out table for 6.30 on a warm Friday evening and as we approached Greek Street, we were really surprised to see it was actually a lovely little oasis of eateries on a pedestrian only street, the vast majority of which had tables outside. The area had a buzz with professionals finishing off their working week with an al-fresco drink and there is a lovely cosmopolitan vibe. I will mention at this point that I hail from Huddersfield, so am possibly easily impressed by the buzz of a vibrant city but my friend and I thought it was a lovely environment.
We were greeted by a really friendly member of staff who quickly located our booking and showed us to our table. As we were there pretty early, the restaurant wasn’t busy, so we were given a choice of table which was lovely. We were really impressed by the modern yet comfortable decor. We were brought the lunch menu, the normal menu and a dedicated gluten free menu.
It is a lovely change to have a dedicated gluten free menu, knowing I can order anything I like from it. It makes a super change from either being handed an allergen guide and having to cross reference it against the standard menu, or needing to check lots of different options with a waiter, who invariably has to then go and double check with the kitchen. I thought there was plenty of choice on the menu, a mixture of the expected pasta dishes and dishes from the grill as well as risottos and salads.
I personally love seafood, so opted for the Prawns Marinara for my starter, followed by pasta Frutti di Mare and a side of mozzarella and tomatoes. My friend chose from the normal menu and had calamari followed by Milanese di Pollo with a side of rosemary and garlic roasted potatoes. I ordered a non-alcoholic cocktail and my friend chose a glass of rose wine.
Our starters arrived within 10-15 minutes and both looked absolutely delicious. I had a generous helping of king prawns, still with their tails on, served with cherry tomatoes, in a light, chilli oil dressing and gluten free bread. The prawns were fabulous and came with the perfect ratio of tomatoes, sauce and bread. I actually could have eaten a huge plateful, but for a starter the portion size was perfect. My friend’s calamari was served on a wooden board with a wedge of lemon and a little pot of aioli. I must admit, I was really envious of her choice and she did say it was absolutely fantastic; not a hint of chewiness at all. With mine being as delicious as it was though, I wasn’t envious for too long.
One thing that really impressed me was the manager came over and checked with us that we wouldn’t be sharing / trying each other’s dishes as nothing that my friend had ordered was gluten free. I think this level of concern and attention is great to see, not least because it inspires confidence in the establishment and kitchen procedures that cross contamination is understood.
Our main courses were just as delicious as the starters, and arrived piping hot and fantastically presented. Again, it waiter confirmed as he put my plate down that it was gluten free pasta which I found really reassuring. My meal was really generously filled with mussels, prawns and crayfish and tasted fantastic. The pasta is absolutely the best gluten free pasta I’ve eaten, and the sauce had just the right amount of spice. It really was top notch, and was complimented perfectly by the fantastic fresh tomato and mozzarella salad. Mine looked and tasted so go, I wasn’t even a tiny bit envious of my friend’s meal, as fantastic as she said it tasted. That really is a rare event for me and most coeliacs – we tend to suffer ‘diner’s envy’, seeing everyone else’s fantastic dinner. Not a hint of that here, wine was perfect for me.
Finally, we ordered pudding. We were unsure if we could actually manage it, but it did seem rude not to, especially given the fantastic choices available. The gluten free dessert menu was impressively varied, and I was tempted by a few options. In the end, I chose a salted caramel sundae, which I customised a bit with a scoop of coffee ice cream. Wow! It was so very tasty, and the coffee ice cream was a real treat and very unusual. My friend had an Eaton mess type dessert, with chewy meringue, passion fruit coulis and raspberries which she said was the perfect end to a fabulous meal.
We really did have a brilliant evening, we found the food to be totally faultless and the restaurant’s understanding of gluten free was just brilliant. The service from every single member of staff was superb and we felt really well looked after throughout the meal.
We ordered 2 starters, 2 mains, 2 sides, 2 desserts, 2 coffees, 2 glasses of wine and 2 non-alcoholic cocktails and the bill came to less than £80 which we thought was great value for the standard of food and service that we received.
I do not hesitate in awarding Carluccio’s on Greek Street 5/5. This is on all counts – service, quality, ambience and (most importantly for me) knowledge of gluten free.
Thank you so much for having us. We are looking forward to a return visit.
For more information, to views menus or to book a table visit www.carluccios.com.