Returning to Carlos

Neil Littman revisits a popular Winchmore Hill restaurant following its recent revamp

Penne beef ragu
Penne beef ragu

The last time I checked there were 915 pictures of food in various guises on my Amazon Photos page. I suspect quite a few of them have ended up published in the Dispatch over the past two years. And, if they look good it usually (though not always) means they taste okay as well.

Sometimes it even helps me to compare past reviews to new ones like this month which involved a return visit a place I wrote about in February 2023 but has seen a few changes since. Restaurants open and close but few places reopen with a similar name, a revamped menu and new staff in what is essentially the same space plus a subtle interior makeover (so subtle I only noticed the bar and seat covers were different).

The most noticeable difference to Carlos@B&Vis the name, which now resembles a social media account. The Carlos part of the name belongs to the owner of Judges (which has branches in Enfield and Potters Bar). I haven’t compared their restaurants to Winchmore Hill but I think they decided to keep the essential qualities of the place and maintain the loyalty of the locals and the goodwill that has been built up.

On an unseasonably cold Thursday night in April, I visited Carlos with two friends. We booked only an hour before and by the time we left only three or four tables were occupied. I think this had much to do with the weather and possibly the economy still biting people’s pockets. The main dining area is very lively and sometimes it’s difficult to hear conversations (especially if there is also background music). It also seems to depend on which part of the room you are seated. Some acoustic dampening would not go amiss.

The menu has been expanded, including a new section for vegan and vegetarian options. I ordered a ‘jumbo’ asparagus starter that came with ham in the main menu (though I would have liked the parmesan shavings as well). Our other starters were Parma ham with figs and asparagus with ham.

There is an extensive list of specials, although I am wary of those dishes that simply say ‘market price’ as it’s a bit embarrassing to ask how much it costs.

My main course was a classic, chicken Milanese (schnitzel with spaghetti arrabiata) and my companions ordered sea bass and penne beef ragu which was disappointing and didn’t seem to be the traditional slow-cooked recipe it’s meant to be, but tasted like pieces of meat added to a pasta dish. Despite that blip they seem to have maintained the same standard of cooking and presentation that they have been noted for in the past.

It was noticeable and welcome that the portion sizes are larger, while prices have remained at about the same level – their set lunch is now £19.95 for two courses which is precisely 5p more than previously! We ordered two portions of apple strudel for dessert and with two coffees and a bottle of Provence rosé the bill came to £166 including 12% service.

My verdict is that Carlos is definitely worth a visit and is good for special occasions.

Carlos@B&V can be found at 10-12 The Green, Winchmore Hill N21 1AY. It’s open Tuesday to Thursday from 12pm-12am, Friday to Saturday from 12pm-1am, and Sunday from 12pm-10pm. Dine-in only and booking essential at weekends. For more information:
020 8886 2981
Email [email protected]
Visit carlos-bv.restaurant

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