OUR booking at this Italian eatery was for 12:30pm, but it looked empty inside. I peeped through a chink in the closed shutters – no movement.
• Osteria, 71 High Street, North Berwick (01620 890589, www.osteria-no1.co.uk)
• Lunch for two, excluding drinks, £64.40
So we decided to kill time by visiting a couple of the charity shops on North Berwick’s narrow High Street. I bought an umbrella and a couple of musty paperbacks, then we returned to Osteria at 12:50pm. It still appeared to be closed. Until we attempted a revolutionary manoeuvre – trying the door handle.
“Madam, sir... welcome,” said the maitre d’, before guiding us to a white linen-clad table.
The decor is slightly retro-stuffy-fine-dining in this eatery – named one of the top three Italian restaurants in Scotland at the Scottish Restaurant Awards.
There are blue carpets, cream walls, leather-clad menus, potted plants, and rather Eighties violet-hued uplighting.
Which is slightly ironic, as Daniella Cocchia – award-winning chef and daughter of the owner, Angelo Cocchia – is only 24 years old.
I went for this whippersnapper’s lasagnette d’agnello (£6.60) from the primi section of the á la carte food list (the set lunch of two courses £15.50, or three for £18.50, is only available Tuesday to Friday). A mini lasagne was a bit of a dull choice on my part, but I was in the mood for something burly.
I wasn’t disappointed. There were seven discs of pasta, each of which was interspersed with a creamy and vibrantly-sweet ragu, as well as Tic Tac sized nuggets of rustic lamb, with a circle of grassy and basily olive oil on the outskirts of the plate. Marvellous Mediterranean medicine – the sort of dish you have flashbacks to, whenever you’re feeling feeble.
Our other starter, ravioli di funghi misti (£8.90), was equally satisfying: three large pasta envelopes, each containing a daub of ricotta flecked with chopped mushroom (more filling please) topped with a ladleful of buttery, truffley, sagey sauce. Oh my.
We followed this with pollo con scamorza affumicata (£14.90) and agnello grigliato (£17.90). The former featured two toasty-skinned and soft chicken breasts, each packed and oozing with smoked mozzarella. This came with four struts of (slightly overdone) new season asparagus, and a pool of white winey, chive-dotted stocky sauce.
In need of some additional carbs, I was glad I’d been persuaded to order a side dish of salty and crispy pan-fried potatoes with rosemary (£2).
Our lamby main of five fat and pink cutlets, topped with a brush of rosemary wasn’t the most dissolvingly soft meat we’ve ever sampled, but it boasted plenty of musky flavour. The surrounding jus was perfumed with rosemary and red wine, with, at the bottom of the puddle, wafer thin slices of tattie, rendered semi-transparent like gauze.
There’s a concise but appealing selection of puds here. I fancied the millefoglie di pan di spagna (£6.90). This was, slightly tackily, served in a long-stemmed Martini glass, which contained a small helping of wet sponge, layered with a clean-tasting lemon creme patissier, and dotted with chunky blackberries and raspberries.
Good, as was the pannacotta al cioccolato bianco (£7.20) – a white chocolate pannacotta with just the right amount of wibble. It was pierced by a shard-like cocoa tuile and teamed with an egg yolk-sized blob of fruity apricot sorbet.
Unless you go for the set lunch deal, it’s slightly pricey at Osteria, but the food is more than decent, with service that consists of old-fashioned pandering (our waiter’s catchphrase was, “How very kind of you”, which he used after clearing up our plates and topping-up our water).
However, there was only one other table of diners on a sunny Saturday lunchtime, when the rest of North Berwick was hoaching.
Perhaps they need to set out their stall. Freshen up the restaurant to suit the youthful chef, include something on the menu about the provenance of their ingredients and open up those blinds. Otherwise, potential customers might be off collecting junk in charity shops.
THREE TO TRY
11 Multrees Walk, Edinburgh (0131-557 0088, www.valvonacrolla.co.uk)
This eatery is hosting a Champagne Jacquart Dinner and Tasting on Tuesday, 7pm, £45pp. Three courses will be served alongside snifters of brut, rosé and vintage champagne.
92-94 Mitchell St, Glasgow (0141-221 0971, www.barologrill.co.uk)
Head to this swanky restaurant for a proper blow-out. Dishes include west coast brown crab and smoked pancetta in a carbonara sauce.
Mine Road, Bridge of Allan (01786 833617, www.vecchiabologna.co.uk)
This family-friendly restaurant has an outside play area for nippers. Choose from pizza and pasta menus, or the more upmarket á la carte.
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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