Restaurant review: Asti, Edinburgh

Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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If toddlers were the size of bears, we’d all be doomed. They would run riot, slam-dunking into muddy puddles, whacking us with their giant paws and causing road traffic accidents as they tore free from their reins.

73 Broughton Street, Edinburgh (0131-558 9156, www.astirestaurant.co.uk)

When I visited restaurant, Asti – presumably named after the city in the Piedmont area of northwestern Italy – I was accompanied by my sister and two-year-old niece (normal-sized, mercifully). A good choice of eatery, we thought, as Italian restaurants are always presumed to be family-friendly and, indeed, many of them are. Anyway, what better test of an establishment than taking a small person, a bit like an unexploded bomb, to visit them for lunch, see how they rise to the challenge.

This place opened back in 2011, so is also officially a toddler. It’s taken me a while to get here, but if I had 12p for every time someone had recommended it to me over the last few months, I’d be, well, about 60p richer. It’s deceptively mini from the outside, but opens out into a sort of monkey-nut shape when you get indoors. There’s a small dining space at the front, a deli counter and a partition of San Pellegrino bottles, as well as a bigger, quieter and shadier room at the back, with polished-up wine glasses on the tables.

We sat by the front window in order to count the dogs going by (a fun activity for young and old alike).

I thought I’d slum it and order from the budget lunch menu, which is £9.95 for two courses, while my eldest dining partner went a la carte.

My crostino starter was decent. The toast was as crisp as a crispy thing, and its topping of lavender-coloured aubergine purée was smoky and peppery, with a fuzz of rocket on the top and some sweet balsamic.

Across the table my sister’s homely melanzane alla parmigiana (£5.50) was a big old oven-dish full of sloppy sweet sugo, as well as melted and grated cheese and discs of slippery and slightly charred aubergine. Almost impossible not to like, I’d say.

My cushion-sized main of risotto Gorgonzola seemed like a steal as part of the lunch menu. There was suitably autumnal-looking corn-coloured rice, crumbled bits of walnut and still-crunchy raddichio with a bitterness that cut through the whack of blue cheese. Great.

Our other course – lamb cutlets (£14.95) – was chosen from the specials board. Although cutlets is such a neat and dainty little word, these were two bruising slabs of meat. Chops seems like a more suitable description, especially as they had un-trimmed edges of crispy and juicy fat, retro style. They came with a buttery pile of mash that was as glossy as magnolia emulsion, and a pool of sweet red wine sauce.

Thumbs up from Tiny, who ate an adaptation of one of the lunch menu courses (pasta with sausage, minus spinach, £5.75).

I wouldn’t skip dessert on a visit to Asti. They have a cabinet of cakes and tarts. You imagine that this case draws as many crowds as the one housing Dolly the Sheep at the National Museum of Scotland.

After steaming up the glass with our bated breath, we settled on the black cherry crostata (£4.95) – a pie with a jammy-looking filling and a latticed top that was chevroned with white icing.

It looked heavy, but, like a good wine, it kind of slid down the oesophagus without one noticing. Lovely, as was the torta pear e ricotta (£4.95), with a flaky pastry lid and a good wedge of foamy ricotta in the middle.

And how did the staff fare on our visit, since we had a tiny tyrant primed for meltdown, in tow? Amazingly. It was like being tended to by Italian angels, who acted like she was a major celebrity, rather than someone who, if she were bear-sized, would smash up their display of San Pellegrino bottles before refusing to kiss them goodbye. Kudos.

The verdict

How much?

Lunch for two and a toddler, excluding drinks, £46.05

FOOD: 7.5/10

AMBIENCE: 8.5/10

TOTAL: 16/20