I was in Bristol on Sunday getting ready for an awayday on the Monday. This gave me the chance to meet up with my daughter Rachel who is studying for her Masters in journalism at uni (if studying also means staying up every night, eating and drinking well and generally jamming around having a good time). I had been recommended San Carlos by the owner of The Newbury Pub so we tried it for it’s starters.
The place looked very glamorous, tarnished only slightly by the many pictures of ‘celebrities’ that covered most free wall space. Several had extremely large bits, more bovine looking than some cows I have seen. I would imagine it is often very busy but we were lucky enough to go on a Sunday evening so it was quiet. On each table was a bowl of very large juicy olives, a whole lemon and whole tomato (?!).
This was an interesting mix of starters. Firstly there were barbecue short ribs in a special San Carlo sauce which seemed a bit odd to have on a very Italian menu, particularly as, whilst the ribs were meaty and tasty, they seemed to be linked to Italy via China, stopping only to pick up a bit of a price tag. The Frittura di Pesce Porto Fino was basically crumbed and fried calamari, prawns, scallops and scampi served with two sauces, tartare or sweet chilli. The fish was all fresh and tasty but a bit samey as they had experienced a family dip. Maybe if the prawns had been naked or wrapped in filo it would have been more exciting. Also the sweet chilli sauce was a bit of a cop out and tasted like it had been shaken out of a bottle. We got bored half way through. The squid was tender, the scallops very fresh but all a bit dull.
The moules mariniere were average. The mussels were small and waiting for their parents to arrive and the cream sauce certainly was that. Cream. We couldnt taste any wine, garlic or onion to the extent that we couldn’t mop up the juice, an unheard of for the hogginess that is me. I also don’t appreciate having to debeard probably a fifth of them myself.
The trio di Bruschette boded well. There was one topped with tomato, one with peppers and one with a spicy sausage and mozzarella. I liked the tomato one but with both that and the pepper one the toppings were very cold, even room temperature would have been better. The nicest one was the spicy sausage and mozzarella one, I could have had more than the one. The bruschette were crisp and warm and the toppings were refreshing although cold, the tomato one had red onion in it, the sausage one had a nice kick of chilli and a light coating of mozzarella.
Ambience was great, the service was wonderful, very entertaining waiters, tap water was given on request although no butter with the bread. I would definitely return though, maybe make some different choices.