VISITING a restaurant on its second day of trading is far from ideal, I realise that.
Locanda de Gusti, 102 Dalry Road, Edinburgh
Dinner for two, excluding drinks, £48.70
The chubby-cheeked cherub on my shoulder had said I should give this Italian place, headed up by Neopolitan chef Rosaro Sartore, a couple of weeks to get established, but the gremlin on the other side explained that if a restaurant has opened its doors and is charging full whack, it should be good to go.
Gordon the Gremlin won, and I ended up here, partially through lack of anywhere else to visit on that particular night.
Anyway, this isn’t a brand new restaurant, so I needn’t cut them THAT much slack.
It was formerly at East London Street, but has schlepped all the way across town to Dalry Road, directly opposite popular establishment First Coast and a branch of South African eatery Shebeen.
Good Seed Bistro used to be here, and they’ve covered its once earth brown walls with duck-egg blue, for a kind of country cottage rustic vibe.
Granted, it looks better than it did before, though it’s situated on a corner that seems to get minimal natural light.
The menu is quite pared back and I went for something very prosaic – smoked pan-cooked mozzarella (£5.95). Bit boring, but blame the scabby mogwai on my shoulder, he demanded it.
This was great, but how could you lose when it comes to a heat-deflated balloon of smoky and squeaky cheese? It was served with hot and sweet whole cherry tomatoes, a smudge of ragu, olive oil, and a few basil leaves. Joy.
The gnocchetti sardi (£6.95, also available as a main for £9.95) was a big old portion, which probably would have done as a small main. The little pasta shapes, which resembled cartoon caterpillars, were swimming in a creamy tomato sugo, with a few shrimps in the mix, toms, and shreds of rocket. Simple and comforting.
My main of halibut (£12.95) was pretty good too, with a slab of white fish served on the bone, plus cannellini beans and tiddlywinks of asparagus, all in a pale yellow and salty broth. The only criticism was that this came with five huge mussels, one of which was clamped shut, like a huffy teenager in its room (maybe it was listening to One Direction in there) while the rest, bar one, were only as open as Rocky’s black eye (and stringy too, if you managed to scrape them out with a knife).
Our charcoal grilled lamb shoulder (£12.95) had gone horribly wrong. We couldn’t even cut the meat, which hadn’t been cooked for long enough, or chargrilled. It was like a giant novelty eraser. The saddest thing was, the rosemary-spiked jus that came with the lamb was fab, as were the saffron yellow and buttery potatoes.
Still, the waitress was very apologetic; “It’s a problem with our equipment,” she said, before taking it off the bill.
They were back on form when it came to puddings. The ginger and carrot cake (£4.95) had a pleasantly powdery and melty texture, with loads of cinnamon; while, a large isosceles of ricotta-filled pastiera Napoletana (£4.95) had the satisfying flavour of post-dunk Rich Teas and was laced with candied orange.
I also tried a corretto (£3.95) – an espresso laced with grappa – for the first time and it was like necking rancid nail varnish remover. Definitely an acquired taste. My bad, not theirs.
This place has opened too early, and now I look like the bad guy because I couldn’t cut through the lamb and the mussels wouldn’t wake up. Still, I’m giving them a generous seven for food, because I loved them in their former premises and have confidence that, once they fix whatever equipment is broken, they’ll be flying.
Sadly, after my visit, the gremlin said he’d been made to feel like a guinea pig. His own fault. Next time, I’m listening to the cherub.
• Locanda de Gusti, 103 Dalry Rd, Edinburgh. 0131 346 8800, www.locandadegusti.com