Dry aged beef - Mono

Mono

24th June 2018 7pm

https://monorestaurant.co.uk/

Opening up recently as a progressive Italian restaurant from the people that brought you the much loved Atelier, Mono is situated on South Bridge. The restaurant is laid out over 2 floors. They keep the ground floor for lunches, afternoon tea and arrival drinks and the lower level for evening dining with a view into the open kitchen. Unfortunately this meant that we had to wait until someone realised we had arrived. I do worry this will not work well for walk ins but believe me, it will be worth it if you hang around.

After having a drink upstairs, we were led down to our table. We started our gastronomic journey with three amuse bouche. These provided a wealth of textures and flavours and were a good introduction to the rest of our meal. Whilst we waited for our first course to arrive, we were brought an assortment of bread, which was made on side. This came with a dish of glossy golden olive oil. This all had wonderful flavour, with the focaccia being my favourite.

Our first course was octopus alla piastra. This had a tentacle, laid on a bed of chickpeas and sultanas, with nduja and sea herbs and a couple of crispy elements which then had a delicious sauce added to it. This had a really interesting combination of flavours which were really tasty.

Octopus all piastra - Mono

Octopus all piastra – Mono

Wood pigeon was the next course, which I love. This has to have been the best wood pigeon dish I’ve ever had (and I’ve eaten it at Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner). The pigeon sat on top of offal, lentils, lardons and capers. Unusually, it was topped with smoked honeycomb, which weirdly worked. This whole dish was sublime.

Wood Pigeon - Mono

Wood Pigeon – Mono

Next up was aged Parmesan pasta. The pasta popped in the mouth with gorgeous Parmesan sauce. Nestled in with the pasta were little egg yolk balls which had a breadcrumb coating which were wonderfully rich and was topped off with white asparagus. A corker of a dish.

Aged parmesan pasta - Mono

Aged parmesan pasta – Mono

Could the next dish keep up the impressive level of cooking? Yes! This time it was salted cod. The delicately tender fish sat with polenta and vivid green strips of asparagus. Broad beans and peas scatted the plate along with some artichoke and was topped off with a luscious mugnaia sauce. A light, fresh dish. Gorgeous.

Salted cod - Mono

Salted cod – Mono

Dry aged beef followed. This beautiful cut of beef was perfectly pink and came with ox cheek. Kohlrabi, cauliflower and hazelnuts were placed across the plate, with rings of shallot and a smattering of sea truffle. The puree was incredible smooth and the sauce beautifully velvety (and bonus for leaving a small jug of it on the table just in case). All I can say is wow.

Dry aged beef - Mono

Dry aged beef – Mono

The next course was a cheese course but technically a dessert. I think this may be a dish that may be difficult to get for some people but we surprisingly enjoyed it. It was a combination of Gorgonzola and chocolate. A mouse was made combining milk chocolate with the cheese. This gave it a tangy flavour. A white chocolate dome filled with more cheesiness sat alongside a Gorgonzola sorbet, which was actually my favourite bit. This was all accompanied by a dark chocolate and hazelnut soil and cherries. This dish was confusing but clever at the same time.

'Cheese' - Mono

‘Cheese’ – Mono

Onto a slightly more straightforward dessert – Perthshire strawberries. The strawberries were soaked in vodka and were nestled alongside and strawberry and pine sorbet. Ricotta balanced out the sweetness to make this a very pleasant dish.

Perthshire Strawberries - Mono

Perthshire Strawberries – Mono

Lastly we had coconut semifreddo. The semifreddo was encased in bramble. Alongside was a coconut crumb, brambles and the most interesting element – Thai green curry sorbet. It’s main flavours were ginger and lemongrass but it did just taste exactly like a Thai green curry. Even stranger, it worked as part of the dessert.

Coconut semifreddo - Mono

Coconut semifreddo – Mono

A couple of the dishes might challenge some palates but we loved the lot. There was some really exemplary cooking here. The table service was also top notch. We thought Atelier couldn’t be topped. We were wrong. Go here and go here soon.

Food – 9.5/10
Service – 9.5/10
Atmosphere – 9.5/10
Value – 9.5/10

Overall – 38/40

Would I eat here again? You betcha

Cost – we had a special deal as former Atelier customers of £60pp for the tasting menu but the standard price would be £75 plus £15 for the glass of wine.

 

Ciao Roma

Ciao Roma

31st May 2018 6pm

www.ciaoroma.co.uk

Handily located across from Festival Theatre, Ciao Roma was bustling on arrival but relatively quiet once theatre groups left. Ciao Roma is a typical Italian affair, with the most intriguing mural along the walls. Then menu isn’t too overfacing and should have something to suit everyone. I chose burrata to start followed by rigatoni norcina. Only one other friend picked a starter and opted for the crostini nduja. She chose risotto capesante for her main and our other friend picked the crudiaola pizza for her main (as she was holding out for dessert).

The starters looked pleasant enough. My burrata was creamy and the balsamic dressing went well with it. I could pretend to be healthy with the addition of rocket and peppers. My friend’s crostini had been billed on the menu as thin sliced, however, these were massive chunks of toasted bread so were far too filling as a starter. That said, the nduja was nice.

My rigatoni was nice and the pasta cooked. I liked the flavours and the portion size was just about right. The risotto my friend had chosen was really well received. There was plenty of seafood in it so felt very generous. The pizza tasted good but was very difficult to cut with her knife as the base was a bit soggy. No-one wants to fight with their pizza.

We all decided to give dessert a try and we were glad we did. Clearly the highlight of the meal, there are various assortments of sundaes and ice cream concoctions. I chose the coppa fabbri, which consisted of cherry and balsamic ice cream, cherries, bits of chocolate fudge gateaux and chocolate sauce. This was totally lush dessert and a pleasant surprise, albeit rather large. I valiantly ate my way through it.
My friends also picked sundaes and equally enjoyed them.

Ciao Roma is nice enough but nothing special. It is worth holding back for dessert though.

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

Overall – 30/40

Would I eat here again? Maybe

Cost £78 for two starters, three mains, three desserts and two glasses of wine

Pizza - @pizza

@pizza

20th March 2018 6.30pm

www.atpizza.com

Pizza is delicious. Pizza can be in your mouth much faster at @pizza with their miraculous speedy pizza cooking machine. Hidden a little just off Queensferry Street, @pizza is an urban, almost fast food, dining experience where you can choose how your pizza is constructed and have it cooked within a couple of minutes. If you find that a little daunting, they do have some standard combinations, ready designed, you can choose from instead. We formed an orderly queue at the toppings counter after having a look at the menu and getting an idea of how we would construct our pizzas. Firstly you get a choice of base, then the sauce, cheese and lastly your toppings. There are over 30 toppings and finishes you can have on your pizza, so you should be able to find the right combination to please your palate. I chose the sourdough base, the classic tomato sauce, mozzarella pearls, spicy sausage, roquito peppers, mushrooms and basil. My friend had many more toppings than me, which made me regret not being as adventurous but never mind. A short wait later and the pizzas were ready. We ordered drinks and paid and went to get stuck in.

@pizza

@pizza

The pizzas themselves are not round but oblong. They were cut before being handed over, so no need for cutlery. The toppings were great, although I wish I’d asked for more basil. The base was superb and we were really impressed on how well it was cooked after such a short time. It all tasted so fresh and satisfying. We were suitably impressed. Soft drinks are of the craft type so have nice, unusual flavours which include free refills. The wine came in a little sealed glass which was quite cute.

Pizza - @pizza

Pizza – @pizza

If you are looking to craft your own pizza, you can’t go wrong with @pizza with it’s choice and speed.

Food – 9/10
Service – 9/10
Atmosphere – 6/10
Value – 9/10

Overall – 33/40

Would I eat here again? Yes

Cost – voucher was £15 for two pizzas and a glass of wine or beer each (I substituted to a soft drink). Real cost likely around £27.

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