Vapiano

Vapiano

9th January 2018 6pm

https://uk.vapiano.com/en/home/

From the front, Vapiano seems like a modest little restaurant. However, this tardis of a venue is actually spread over three floors, with the bottom floor being the largest with a spacious feel. There is an unusual approach to dining here. Ross, at the front desk, explained the set up to us. There are different stations for different foods: one for salad/antipasti, one for pizza, one for pasta and one for the bar and desserts. These are spread out over the floors but you go and order/collect your food yourself. You can either sit nearest the one you want or move about the restaurant to collect your food. There is also a lift for those who find stairs a bit over facing. We settled on the middle floor and sat at one of the high tables (there are a variety of types of seating). Order tracking is facilitated through a card, which can be swiped at each station, allowing you to see how much you are spending as you go, freedom from splitting bills and fun for kids.

We would have got 2 for 1 cocktails (between 4-7 Mon-Fri) if my friend had chosen one of the eligible cocktails but as it was, we chose the raspberry collins and the mai tai. These both were excellent and good value, even without the deal. Owen, who was our contact for the evening, had arranged for us to automatically receive the piatto anti-pasti platter. When this arrived, it was a veritable feast. With plentiful supply of three different meats, bruschetta, bread, mozzarella, parmesan and roasted vegetables, we were in for a treat. Most of the tables also have additional supplies of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, should you want to avail yourself of these extras. All the ingredients were incredibly fresh and flavour was good and not overseasoned. This would be perfect for a light lunch for two if you weren’t interested in a more hearty pasta or pizza dish.

We decided that we would try a pasta and a pizza dish for our mains. I went upstairs to the entry level service area and ordered a diavolo pizza. With pizzas, as they take a little longer to cook, I was given a buzzer so I could come back when it was ready. My friend went to the pasta area on the lowest floor. All the pasta is made on site and bundled into portions ready to cook in the various dishes. My friend had originally wanted the pollo piccante but, disappointingly, this was unavailable that day. She opted for carbonara instead. She waited a few minutes and was presented with her dish to take back up to our table. My pizza had a surprisingly crispy base and wasn’t too doughy. The topping was decent enough and the spicy sausage was actually spicy which was pleasing. On the other side of the table the carbonara vanished almost in an instant. Not because it was a small portion, as it was definitely not small, but because it was tasty.

We were cajoled into desserts, sold on the idea because these were also made from scratch on the premises. They do offer a small number of them in a mini size if you have already eaten loads but can’t resist something sweet to round off your meal. I chose the mini panna cotta and my dining companion went for the mini tiramisu. Sadly, again they didn’t have the mini tiramisu (I think my friend is cursed) so she went for the full sized version. My panna cotta had a lovely strawberry coulis on top. The panna cotta was firm but full of fresh vanilla which was lovely. The tiramisu was well received although she was unable to finish it after everything else we had eaten.

Vapiano is a solid option with some decent food. If you are enamoured with their USP, then it’s worth giving it a whirl.

Food – 7.5/10
Service – 8/10
Atmosphere – 8/10
Value – 8/10

Overall – 31.5/40

Would I eat here again? Yes, particularly for the anti-pasti.

Complimentary but would have cost around £58 for two cocktails, sharing anti pasti platter, pizza, pasta and two desserts.

Whilst this meal was complimentary, all views are my own. Thank you to Rebecca for organising and to Owen for facilitating the visit.

Piccolino

Piccolino

7th December 2017 6pm

www.piccolinoedinburgh.com

I was invited to a blogger/press event at Piccolino. I made a rookie error in not asking if it was a plus one event, expecting it to be one of those mingling and tasting evenings but it wasn’t, so I ended up having dinner on my own. There are worse things in the world! Anyway, Piccolino is a cosy, intimate environment situated in Tollcross serving Italian food. I had a chat with the owner, Luigi. He advised me that they use fresh ingredients, which means it might take a few minutes longer from order to eating but tastes like ‘your mother in Italy used to make’. With that introduction, I was keen to ensure I had some pasta during the evening. In the end I chose calamari for my starter, followed by gnocchetti broccoli salsiccia e grana.

Calamari - Piccolino

Calamari – Piccolino

The calamari came out with no discernible difference in time to any other restaurant, which was great. Served on some brown paper (on a plate I hasten to add), this dish aimed to have a rustic feel. The calamari was not rubbery and was seasoned well. The coating could have been a little crispier but a minor detail in what was a decent dish. The accompanying mayo was lovely and finished off the dish nicely.

Gnocchetti - Piccolino

Gnocchetti – Piccolino

Onwards to the main course. This was a gnocchi dish with broccoli and Italian sausage. This is what I would call a simple, rustic Italian dish. There’s no flash, just a plate full of wholesome food. The gnocchi was soft and the broccoli still had a bit of firmness to it. The sausage was crumbled through the dish rather than sliced up, which was a nice surprise. There was a fantastic addition of a couple of Parmesan crisps on the side. These had the most incredibly intense cheese flavour.

I was too full for dessert, which was a shame. I think Piccolino offers a reliable Italian experience in a intimate setting. Worth a visit.

Food – 7.5/10
Service – 8/10
Atmosphere – 8/10
Value – 8/10

Overall – 31.5/40

Would I eat here again? Yes.

Cost – this meal was complimentary but would have cost around £18 for the starter and main course

Whilst this meal was complimentary, all views are my own. Thanks to Simone for organising.

Italian Salami Pizza - Pizza Posto

Pizza Posto

3rd August 2017 1pm

https://pizzaposto.co.uk/

In the site of the former beloved pizza joint Tutto Matto, Pizza Posto is in a perfect location just across from the Festival Theatre. With a stripped down menu, Pizza Posto offers just 8 pizzas, but wow were they tasty. I ordered myself the number 5 – tomato sugo, mozzarella, spicy Italian salami and olive oil. My friend chose the number 4 – nduja sauce, Tuscan sausage, Italian broccoli, mozzarella and olive oil.

Italian Salami Pizza - Pizza Posto

Italian Salami Pizza – Pizza Posto

The pizzas came out really quickly and were a good size. The tomato sugo topping was delicious and the large discs of salami were perfect. I would have liked a little less crust on my pizza, with the topping actually reaching the crust rather than a bit of empty base but that was really my only negative. On the other side of the table, my friend was also enjoying her pizza. The Italian broccoli wasn’t quite what she expected and felt like it was a cross between broccoli and spinach but thought it was tasty nevertheless. We both managed to polish off the pizzas, which indicated they were just the right size for a hearty lunch.

Tuscan Sausage Pizza - Pizza Posto

Tuscan Sausage Pizza – Pizza Posto

There are a few desserts should you fancy but we were full.

We enjoyed our trip but I did have one really bizarre negative. We were sat in the lower part of the restaurant and my seat was next to a cut out design feature in the divider part of the wall, which the speaker seemed to face, albeit at a bit of a distance. However, the way the sound travelled actually gave me a ringing ear, like I’d been to a gig, which lasted well over an hour after our visit. Weird. Anyway, don’t let that put you off, just choose your table wisely!

Food – 9/10
Service – 8/10
Atmosphere- 7/10
Value – 10/10

Overall – 34/40

Would I eat here again? Yup!

Cost £20 for two pizzas, a peroni and a Diet Coke

Bruscetta - La Favorita

La Favorita

24th May 2017 7.30pm

www.vittoriagroup.co.uk/lafavorita/

This was a long overdue catch up with fellow bloggers Emma from Vegan Edinburgh and Ann from A Quirky Lifestyle. We usually let Emma pick the venue as her requirements are a higher priority. She was shocked to hear that whilst I’d had take away from La Favorita, I’d not actually dined in. Ann hadn’t either, so this had to be rectified. I booked a table, and we were given the opportunity to give any dietary requirements and to let them know if the booking was for a special event. So we forewarned them that we had a vegan in our midsts.

It was a little hectic on arrival, with little space by the reception desk, which is situated after the bar area. Our table wasn’t ready so we sat in the waiting area for about 5 minutes or so before being seated. Once seated at our table, Emma double checked the vegan options (click here for the Vegan Edinburgh review) with the waitress. After scanning the generously sized menu, I went for the calamari fritti followed by a 10 inch Hawaii pizza (14 inch are also available). Emma chose bruschetta followed by the vegetariana but with vegan cheese substituting the standard cheese. Ann went for crocchette di merluzzo (fish cakes) and asked for a pizza recommendation from the waitress. She gave three options and Ann chose the Campione di Scozia. A G&T, Diet Coke and a cocktail were also ordered (the latter again on recommendation of the waitress).

When the first course came, they were in a variety of sizes. The bruschetta was huge and the fishcakes were small and my calamari fritti were somewhere in the middle. The fritti actually consisted of both baby squid and anchovies. The squid was nice, particularly when dipped in the garlic mayonnaise. However, I was a little disappointed with the anchovies as they were unbelievably salty. They also broke as you tried to pick one up, so it almost ended up as a salty, fishy crumb, which was a shame. The bruschetta was large so if you don’t eat it quickly the bread can become a little soggy. However, it went down well. I think just be mindful of portion sizes and balance it well with your choice of mains. The crocchette di merluzzo were also being enjoyed and the plate was cleared.

The pizzas followed shortly after and the 10 inch pizzas were definitely big enough after a starter. There was plenty of topping on my pizza and the flavours were really good. I love a good thin base and this was pretty decent. I couldn’t manage to finish it all though but had made a valiant effort. The Campione di Scozia pizza was generally well received but she found the cheese a little too much. She didn’t make as much headway with her pizza but was offered a take out box in order to transport it home, which she took them up on. The vegetariana was wolfed down. It appeared that the way La Favorita dispersed the vegan cheese as a topping has changed by using smaller cubes, making the pizza much more enjoyable. A thumbs up for the vegan option.

We were all way too stuffed to have dessert, but La Favorita offers some decent pizzas.

Food – 7/10
Service – 8/10
Atmosphere – 7/10
Value – 8/10

Overall – 30/40

Would I eat here again? Probably

Cost £63 for three starters and mains plus a cocktail, a G&T and a Diet Coke

Contini

Contini

22nd May 2017 6.15pm

www.contini.com/contini-george-street

I had been wanting to visit Contini for quite some time and a voucher from Itison allowed us to finally experience this place. Situated on George Street, Contini forms part of the Contini chain which includes Cannonball and the Scottish Café and Restaurant at the Scottish National Gallery. Our voucher included two starters, two mains, a side dish and two Venus Prosecco cocktails.

Venus Prosecco - Contini

Venus Prosecco – Contini

We were greeted warmly by staff, in the lofty, ornate venue, and taken to our table. When we took our seats, there were menus already on the table, so we got looking, only to be told that we were actually ordering from a different menu (which wasn’t stipulated on the voucher). They were still items from the normal al a carte menu but there was a much reduced choice which was a bit of a shame. We were given our cocktails – although the prosecco meant I couldn’t drink it but I had graciously forgone my non-alcoholic alternative so my friend could drink them both! The prosecco also had strawberry in it with lots of lavender scattered across the top, along with a flower. My friend found the lavender pieces a bit annoying whilst trying to drink the cocktail but overall enjoyed the flavour. We also got our food ordered – me opting for arancini followed by contandino, which is a creamy sausage pasta dish. My friend went for the pigs cheek carbonara to start and followed that with the beetroot risotto. We chose the pomodori (tomatoes) for our side.

Our starters both looked good, served in dishes so lovely I wanted to nab them. You could smell the wild garlic pesto that my arancini were sat in. The beautiful aroma wafted up to my nose and made me dive into the dish. The balls themselves were soft, with the rice cooked perfectly and the cheese giving it nice flavour. I have to say I was a little envious of the dish on the other side of the table as it looked amazing, made with one of my favourite pastas (trofiette). However, my friend did not enjoy it so much. She felt a little misled by the pigs cheeks as this wasn’t the braised type more frequently served in the UK, but was more like lardons. This would have been ok in itself but due to the cut, she found it a bit chewy. She also found the dish a little salty for her palate but was probably to be expected considering the elements of the dish.

The mains also had a visual impact. Mine looked utterly comforting but my friend was weirdly shocked by the bright colour of her risotto (I am really not sure what she was expecting as it looked as I thought it would). My pasta dish was made from orecchiette and was sitting in a creamy sauce with Italian picante sausage, porcini mushrooms, rocket and a parmesan tuille. This dish was beautiful from start to finish. Everything had incredible flavour, from the sausage to the mushroom through to the parmesan. I am led to believe this hasn’t been off the menu since the day they opened, and frankly, I am not surprised. Across the table from me, my friend found the risotto needed more in it to break it up a bit as it became too samey as she went on. I think both of us have decided not to pick risottos in restaurants any more as this is often a problem. I did have a quick try of the dish and the taste was good, so if you don’t mind the lack of variety on your plate, this could still work as a dish. The side of tomatoes were lovely. Balsamic vinegar was drizzled over them and the little basil leaves were a perfect match, as you would expect.

With me looking like the cat who got the cream with my chosen plates of food and my friend not so, we decided to see what desserts brought. These weren’t part of the voucher deal so paid full price. I was toying between the bomboloni and the chocolate mousse, so asked our server for her recommendation. She said bomboloni with such speed that I thought she was actually clarifying that was what I said, when in fact she just was incredibly certain that this was the dessert to try, so that had me sold. My friend went for the limone, which was a lemon cream which came with meringue. My dessert consisted of three small, round, warm, sugared doughnuts with a dish of chocolate sauce. The doughnuts weren’t the lightest I’d ever had but that didn’t stop them from being yummy. The chocolate sauce was good, although I would prefer mine a little thicker than perhaps traditionally served. On the other side of the table, the dish was quite creamy and could have been a little smaller. I had a taste though and it was full of zing.

This meal was different for the two of us – me really enjoying it and my friend not as much, although she did admit it was partly down to the menu choices she made.

Food – 7/10
Service – 9/10
Atmosphere – 7.5/10
Value – 7.5/10

Overall – 31/40

Would I eat here again? I would, but with a different dining companion!

Cost £39 with the voucher plus £10 for the desserts but would be closer to £65 full price.

Origano

Origano

21st March 2017 6pm

www.origano-leith.co.uk

A friend recommended Origano quite a while ago and we finally got round to venturing in. Situated on Leith Walk, this restaurant has quite a romantic feel, beautifully lit with candles (although they do take up a large amount of the table). We had a look at the menus but also spotted some antipasto platters listed on the wall. When the waiter came to take our order, we asked whether a small or large plate would do as a starter to share between two and he suggested a small one would be sufficient, which was a nice, honest answer. We then were greedy and ordered a pizza each. Their smallest size is 11 inches but also offer a 14 and 16 inch for those with larger appetites or wishing to share (all 14in are available gluten free too). I opted for a calabrese pizza and my dining companion went for the gambero piccante.

Origano

Origano

The sharing platter arrived and the waiter was right about the size. This was perfect to share as a starter. The platter included baby mozzarella, santos tomatoes, bresaola, salami milano, coppa, parma ham, speck, rocket, grana padano, red pesto, garlic butter, mixed olives, sun-blushed tomatoes and warm focaccia (phew!). The whole lot was absolutely delicious. I think we both struggled to identify a favourite part as we enjoyed it all so much. A larger version would be good if you didn’t want pizza. I could happily have a small one to myself for lunch too.

Antipasto Mixed - Origano

Antipasto Mixed – Origano

Pizzas arrived and only just squeezed onto the table. I think you would struggle to fit them on if you had larger pizzas. They both had generous toppings. My calabrese was lovely. The spicy sausage was a little salty for my palate but still tasted good, with enough heat through it to give a delicate tingle to the mouth. I’d never had mascarpone on a pizza and really enjoyed this. It wasn’t overkill on top of the mozzarella, which was a pleasant surprise. The pizza also had a great crispy base. On the other side of the table the gambero piccante pizza also enjoyed. My friend enthused about the amount of topping on her pizza and seemed really satisfied with it.

Origano offers good value, tasty food in a lovely environment. It is definitely worth a visit.

Food – 9/10
Service – 7/10
Atmosphere – 8/10
Value – 9/10

Overall – 33/40

Would I eat here again? Most definitely.

Cost £36 for one sharing platter, two pizzas and two diet cokes

Tandoori Chicken Pizza - Croma

Croma

23rd November 2016 6pm

www.cromapizza.co.uk/restaurants/edinburgh

Many moons ago I used to frequent the Manchester branch of Croma on a pretty regular basis, with the tandoori chicken salad being a favourite. Having taken so long to visit since living in Edinburgh, I wasn’t sure if it would resemble my memories. Situated on Lothian Road, this branch of Croma is attached to the Odeon, which creates a strange dining space as there are stairs down to the cinema in the middle of the restaurant. However, as we were heading to the cinema anyway, it was the perfect location. Croma offers a very reasonable pre-theatre menu which offers a starter, main and drink (including some alcoholic options) for £11.95. You can also add on a dessert for £3. Whilst the starters are limited, a great deal of the mains are available to choose from. We decided to go for this option (even though I was pleased to see the tandoori chicken salad was still there). So two of went for garlic bread and one for garlic dough balls. All three of us went for pizza for our mains; I chose chilli salsaccia, my friend’s went for tandoori chicken and the americana.

The starters arrived promptly. The garlic bread was a largish oval shape but light and puffy. The garlic flavour was spot on. The dough balls were also of a good standard and plentiful, with about eight on the plate.

The pizzas arrived and were just the right size. Mine had an intriguing chilli jam base. It took my mind a few bites to get over the confusion of the taste over expectation of tomato but it was really good. The sausage was herby and great in flavour. The red onion and peppers have a nice balancing element to the pizza. It was very satisfying. The tandoori chicken pizza was visually appealing. With a lime wedge, the flavour had a nice tingle. It’s good to see that Croma didn’t shy away from the spices. The Americana was also going down a treat. The only complaint was that it might have been useful to have the pizza pre-sliced or provide a pizza cutter and it’s a bit tiring on the hands with a knife and fork.

We enjoyed our time at Croma. One of my dining companions felt it was a little similar to Pizza Express but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Croma is in a good location and has a solid offering.

Food – 8/10
Service – 8/10
Atmosphere – 7/10
Value – 9/10

Overall – 32/40

Would I eat here again? Yes.

Cost £36 for three pre-theatre two course meals