Known up and down the country for its photo-worthy restaurants and mouthwatering menus, the San Carlo group is all about elevated Italian. We’ve spotted celebrities in the Manchester site, a Dior pop-up in London, and for the latest opening in the capital? The team have taken over the huge plot, which was once home to Carluccio’s, over at St Christopher’s Place.
Joining the ranks of popular groups like Harry’s Bar and Hoppers, Isola by San Carlo flies the flag for la dolce vita. The space is ideal for post-shopping dinners, weekend brunching and date night drinks, with its location being just seconds from Oxford Street. On my weekend visit? I made a beeline to the gorgeous dining room - nestling in a cosy corner table for a spot of cocktail-fuelled lunching.
The interior was striking; green striped banquettes joined raffia chairs, marble tabletops and muted yellow walls in the wraparound dining room. Instagram eat your heart out. Waiting for my lunch date to arrive, I kept the hunger pangs at bay with a plate of zucchine fritte (£5.80) – the perfect combination of crispy, salty and moreish – washed down with an old fashioned Don Salvatore (£12.50) which peppered the classic with maraschino liqueur and chocolate bitters for a sweeter touch.
With pane and stuzzichini, antipasti and sides, there’s plenty to get your appetite going before the main event. We kept it classic with Apulian burrata (£13.95) - served with oven-roasted yellow and red cherry tomatoes. Then, there was the delicate beef carpaccio (£13.50) which marinated thinly sliced cuts of beef before serving with olives, rocket and Parmesan.
In terms of mains, there are sharing dishes, pizzas and meatier options cooked on the grill, but it had to be pasta for us – the ideal pairing with a bottle of prosecco rosé (£41). My lunch date opted for the rigatoni carbonara (£14.95); just how you'd expect the creamy classic to be - smothered in egg yolk, Guanciale, Pecorino and black pepper.
When I spotted the ‘one and only’ Signor Sassi lobster spaghetti (£35), it was a no-brainer. A juicy number, it arrived on a half lobster, tossed with fresh tomatoes and chunks of lobster. Chef’s kiss. The desserts didn’t disappoint either, taking us right back to Italy by way of pistachio cake and gelato.
The DesignMyNight Digest
A stellar addition to San Carlo's West End collection, Isola is firmly up there with the group's venues in Selfridges, Spinningfields and beyond. Beautiful interior? Quality dishes? An atmosphere that almost tricked me into thinking I was actually abroad? It's all here.
💰 The damage: around £140 for two plus service charge.
📍 The location: St Christopher’s Place, London, W1U 1AY.
👌 Perfect for: all occasions, really.
⭐ Need to know: arrive early for a cocktail at the bar before dinner, it's stunning.
If you like this, take a look at our favourite restaurants in the West End.