Carluccio’s – a place for refuelling cheaply

Grand Central, a shopping centre of such dullness that I would rather like it renamed Blandy McBlandface, would seldom be my first choice of dining destination.

Nor, indeed, would I choose a table with a unhindered views of public lavatories.
Since Carluccio’s latest branch in Birmingham is situated in Grand Central, and my seat there overlooked the loos, you may expect I would less than impressed by a meal there.
Think again. It seemed to serve solidly pleasant food at a fair price.
The sort of place at which I’d squeeze in a swift meal between shopping and catching a train.

The decor

It’s an open space that overlooks a passage with other food and drink outlets – and, from some points, the lavatories.
The decor is unfussy but smart. Tables are well spaced. Slightly subdued lighting adds to the ambience.
It’s a deli (somewhat highly priced) as well as a restaurant.

The food

The thrust of the menu is, obviously, Italian. There’s nothing terribly complicated.
There are sharing boards, pasta standards, salads and more substantial dishes.
The caponata with which I began was fine – an adequate rendition of the sweet and sour Sicilian aubergine dish.
Were I determined to find fault, I’d say it was a touch too sweet.
Opposite a pot of chicken liver pate was enjoyed well enough.
I progressed to a generous serving of al dente penne served with a pokey crumbled luganica sausage in a tomato ragù.
That some remained uneaten could be explained by generosity of the portion rather than quality of the ingredients or cooking.
Flattened and breaded chicken breast was well-received.
A side order of roast spuds, flavoured with garlic and rosemary, was excellent.

The drinks

There’s a well-conceived and competitively priced list of craft beers, cocktails, wines and other drinks.
The Campari and soda I drank before dinner was a refreshing start to the meal. The bottle of Sicilian red afterwards was hearty.

The service

The staff are efficient and friendly and at pains to explain the dishes that are on offer.
They gave the sense that they are not only well trained, but actually engaged with what they’re doing.

Need to know

Expect to pay around £30 for three courses and wine.
Cut costs by choosing the £12.99 three-course lunch menu.
Child friendly.
Suitable for the disabled.

Grand Central Shopping Centre, Birmingham B2 4XJ. 0121 643 0009.