We love Divino Enoteca so when we heard that they had closed for refurbishment in January, doubled the size of the kitchen and revamped the menu; we were excited to go along and see all the changes. For those of you who have visited before, don’t panic – the wine machine is still there but more about that later!
Situated in Edinburgh’s Old Town just off the Grassmarket in Merchant Street, Divino Enoteca sparkles through its wine bottle clad windows as we approach. Tables with their pristine white tablecloths and polished cutlery (more shiny than practical – I couldn’t master my heavy ended knife!) are busy with folks enjoying the cosy and romantic basement dining room.
A warm Italian welcome
As we descended the old stone staircase into the restaurant, we were met by Divino’s attentive staff and shown to our table. On the way, we had a sneak peek into the shiny new kitchen where Francesco Ascrizzi and his team were working flat out, obviously enjoying their new larger kitchen.
The restaurant now has three unique areas all of which are delightful in their own right. The wine bar has a more casual feel and the perfect venue to enjoy a few drinks and some antipasto while the atmospheric restaurant is terribly romantic with its pristine tables and subtle lighting. The two private dining spaces are ideal for a bigger get together with friends to celebrate a special occasion.
To get started on our Italian feast we decided to order a basket of homemade bread which is made on the premises every day. A great selection of different types of bread arrived, and they all tasted top notch – we especially loved the cheesy, slightly salty focaccia which was delicious with the olive oil and balsamic dip. While we nibbled on the bread, Silvio Praino arranged wine for us – Gavi for me and Refosco from North West Italy for Raymond. Silvio has been the sommelier at Divino for years and I imagine lots of customers visit because of his entertaining chat and passion for Italy and wine.
Whenever I see sardines on a menu, I just have to have them. They’re not something I eat often but happy memories of sardines cooking away on open fires in the continent with the sun shining reawaken the desire. Sardines have traditionally been seen as poor folk’s food, being relatively plentiful and cheap to buy so I was interested to see what “Scotland’s finest Italian restaurant” was going to do with them. My very traditional Sicilian dish of Sarde “Becca Fico” arrived with two plump oven-roasted sardines stuffed with a hearty mixture of pine nuts, breadcrumbs, and herbs and were presented on a pool of sweet and glossy tomato sauce. This comforting starter transformed the simple sardine into a real special dish imitating it’s posher namesake the “Becca Fico” or Fig Pecker, a little bird historically enjoyed by the wealthy and considered a great delicacy on the continent.
Raymond chose the Burrata Pugliese, a deliciously creamy mozzarella style cheese from Puglia which was accompanied with confit aubergine, sun blush tomatoes and crispy croutons. The flavoursome cheese had a soft almost elastic outer layer and a rich soft creamy centre – perfect with the crisp croutons. Probably not the lowest fat starter but when in Italy!
My Carnaroli rice risotto arrived with the topping of Pecorino cheese just starting to melt and cool at the same time creating a scrumptious crust over the top of the creamy risotto. The two simple ingredients of sliced asparagus and liquorice infused shallots added to the delicious taste of the dish while not overpowering the overall flavour. Liquorice can divide opinion, but I’m sure with the subtle tastes, even non-liquorice lovers will find this risotto delizioso.
Raymond’s three bone rack of roasted lamb cooked medium rare was served with sauté artichokes, and a creamy potato terrine then drizzled with mint and lamb jus. Lamb on the bone is never very easy to eat but the intense flavours made up for the dissection work required.
Room for dessert?
Cheese isn’t normally my first choice when it comes to dessert, but with two options on our tasting menu, we thought we would choose one of each and then share. I’m so glad we did, as the selection of regional Italian cheeses along with chutneys and honey was fabulous. The selection consisted of Taleggio 45 day rind wash, black truffle pecorino, gorgonzola (so yummy with the honey!), Caprino and Salva.
Our other dessert was a moist orange scented cake filled with sweetened vanilla mascarpone, served with kumquat sauce and dark chocolate shavings. The cake was lighter than it looked and the mascarpone heart and tart sauce made for a delicious end to our meal.
Wine is at the centre of everything
Book a Table at Divino Enoteca Edinburgh
5 Merchant Street
Tel: 0131 225 1770
Many thansk to Divino Enotecta for inviting us along to sample the new menu.