Carluccio’s, Grand Central

I hadn’t eaten at Carluccio’s since being a yummy-ish mummy in Richmond in 2007. My overriding memory is of juggling a new-born while trying to eat a bowl of pasta, hold an adult conversation and praying that other diners wouldn’t mind a spot of discreet breast feeding or notice my top was on inside out. And breathe.

This time round was a much more relaxed affair sans babies. Not exactly in a prime spot in Grand Central, the restaurant is tucked round a corner away from the hubbub which was no bad thing actually. The décor was stylish and comfortable with well-spaced tables and the staff were warm. The menu was much more reasonable than I remembered although the ludicrous wealth of Richmond probably explains that. Full of summery Mediterranean dishes, the set daytime menu at £11.99 for two courses looked like a steal. A zingy Summer Garden mocktail with elderflower, cucumber and limonata hit the spot and wasn’t too sweet – the downfall of most mocktails I’ve tried, while the friend enjoyed a glass of Sicilian white while telling me for the fourth time he’d interviewed Antonio Carluccio in the flesh and what a lovely fella he was.

The set menu ticked all of my boxes so I stuck with that and devoured a tasty bruschetta to start. Fresh basil, garlic, flavoursome tomatoes, good quality olive oil. The friend ordered from the main menu to sample one of his favourites, arancini. Two varieties of the rice balls were served, one with gorgonzola and courgette and the other ‘nduja (spicy Italian pork sausage) and mozzarella. Both packed a punch in terms of flavour, but could have done with being a tad crisper. Then I was treated to a wonderfully simple and delicious spinach and ricotta ravioli with melted butter and sage. It was a pleasing bright yellow and utterly scrumptious and fitted the theme of the menu which is ‘minimum of fuss, maximum of flavour’. The friend went for chicken Milanese – flattened chicken breast encased in breadcrumbs. It was crisp, succulent and tasty. A side of crunchy, rosemary, roast potatoes were moreish. I may have nabbed a few. Fantastic coffee followed as you’d expect. The lunchtime crowd was a mixed bunch and included shoppers taking the weight off, professionals on their lunch break and yummy mummies looking way more relaxed and yummy than I ever did.

CARLUCCIO’S GRAND CENTRAL Stephenson St, Grand Central, Birmingham B2 4DH. Tel: 0121 643 0009 www.carluccios.com