Scotsman Review
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  • Ambience - It's important that a restaurant is inviting. We rate the decor, comfort and atmosphere.
  • Drink - Is the wine or cocktail list as exciting as the food, or does it fall short? Same goes for soft drinks. 
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October 11, 2019

Franco Manca, Edinburgh, restaurant review

Get your city centre pizza fix at Scotland's first Franco Manca, says Gaby Soutar

Glacier, XXX strong, and the fluff-covered Polos at the bottom of your bag.

I love them all, so it should be easy, I thought, to find the new pizza chain Franco Manca. Just follow the toothpaste smell of The Mint Building.

Sadly, the title of this modern construction is more to do with the manufacture of fusty old money.

It’s part of The Registers development on St Andrew Square, which encompasses the former Royal Bank of Scotland HQ and includes The Edinburgh Grand.

If it helps you to orientate, other notable residents include a tartan tat shop, piping dervish-inducing music down the street, Wahaca, Saigon Saigon, Charlie Miller, and the dog-end of Topshop.

We thought we wouldn’t get a table since they don’t take bookings. But, no, it was almost completely empty.

It’s a smallish space, neutrally decorated. I suppose after the demise of Jamie’s Italian and other mid-level chains, and as if to anticipate the recent problems at Pizza Express, they don’t go in so big.

Franco Manca’s USP is Neapolitan style sourdough pizza. There are dozens in London, a few in the north of England and one in Salina, Italy. This is the first north of the Border.

There are specials on the board, but we tried à la carte starters to share.

The aubergine parmigiana (£4.15) was nuclear temperature and saucy, with amorphously stewed aubergine, plenty of mozzarella and dots of sugo. While, British bresaola (£5) featured seven coaster sized slices of cool beef, a handful of mizuna leaves, Parmesan and a little squish of lemon juice.

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Our pizza bread (£3.45) was a silly choice as a precursor to pizza, but I find it hard to resist rosemary, as well as sea salt, both scattered over slices of bread fanned onto a board like playing cards.

The pizza choices are rather limited, with just seven. They’re all quite grown up and simple, though there are a couple of specials, or you can pimp them up with extra toppings, including Yorkshire fennel sausage (£1.60) and Montgomery’s Ogleshield cheese (£1.75), no pineapple.

I tried no 7 (£9). It was earthy and gently spicy, with three folded napkins of Ventricina salami, roasted baby plum tomatoes and green peppers from Vesuvio, a little mozzarella, a thatch of wild mizuna and rocket leaves, and the slightly gross-looking but rather lush-tasting spicy nduja drizzle.

The bases are good – chewy, very salty and cheetah-spotted along their rims. Actually, don’t call them that, as the correct name for the edges is cornicione, and they provide dips for them here, like the tangy Stilton (£1.25) version we went for.

We also tried number 5 (£8), with tomato, garlic chips, capers, black olives, mozzarella and three cold pen-length Cantabrian anchovies strewn along the top. This was a little less well-fired than my option, so its owner grumbled slightly.

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Our last pizza, the meat special (£9) from the board, had a fluffy drift of mozzarella and ricotta dotted with the polar explorers of five spicy lamb sausage clods, four high-viz yellow Vesuvian tomatoes, and a slick of tomato. The basil was presumed lost.

Puddings are also quite simple. They must be the only chain in town that doesn’t have something salted caramel-ish on the dessert list.

We ordered all three options, beyond ice-cream or sorbet. The best was the brick of lemon almond cake (£3.95), sticky with honey and served with a scoop of yogurt.

The chocolate and hazelnut cake (£3.95) was dense and rich, and a huge helping of creamy cocoa-dusted tiramisu (£3.95) featured a glug of rum amongst its spongy strata. They do a good strong negroni (£5.50) here too.

The Mint Building has got a mint new business on its ground floor.

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Although I’d much rather be in one of Edinburgh’s independent joints (Razzo, The High Dive, Civerino’s Slice, Wanderers Kneaded, Pizza 1926, East Pizzas, I LOVE you guys), this place is a good choice if you’re central (and need to get your fix of hyper bagpipe tunes).

Just follow the smell of pizza.

Franco Manca Edinburgh

The Mint Building, 19-23 South St Andrew Square, Edinburgh
(0131-560 1329,

Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.
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