Frida Kahlo’s eyebrow, a heron’s fishing leg, Michael Jackson’s glove, a snail’s foot, one driver (without another on the backseat). Apart from magpies, there are lots of things that are better in the singular.
Ironically, this new “progressive Italian dining” restaurant isn’t the only eatery in the central belt with that name (see Glasgow’s hugely popular vegan destination, Mono).
It’s popped up on Edinburgh’s South Bridge – an odd location, mainly immune to nice restaurants, unless you count Piemaker.
Not that much of a surprise, as Mono’s head chef Maciek Zieliński is formerly of The Atelier – a fab eatery at the equally incongruous location of dusty old Morrison Street.
Along with Joseph Crolla of Crolla’s Italian Kitchen in Musselburgh, they’ve splurged on the interior of this venue, which is spread across two floors, with a textural theme that includes cork walls, a wood-burning stove, parquet floors and fancy tableware.
There’s also an open kitchen, should you be the sort of sicko who likes to watch people sweating over your tea.
Not me, I like to pretend that fairies are making my dinner, and I’m pretty sure one conjured my cocktail.
The Buddha’s hand (£9) was opaque like Alka Seltzer and as citrussy as a rub down with Cif, thanks to an alchemic combination of Porter’s gin, Luxardo maraschino liqueur, crème de mûre, sugar syrup, lemon, and a sprig of thyme laid across the rim of the glass, so it tickled my nostrils every time I took a sip.
It turns out this drink is named after a fruit, native to China, which looks a bit like Edward Scissorhands’ Marigold glove.
Before our starters – octopus alla piastra (£12) and aged Parmesan pasta (£12) – there was a line up of pre-starters. Our favourite was the teaspoon of tomato sorbet topped with a Parmesan espuma, for an upmarket vape of liquid pizza flavours.
Then there was a biscuit-sized frisbee of cakey piadina, topped with powdered thyme and lemon. I can barely remember the third one, since it disappeared in one happy chomp, but it did involve pork belly and various herby oils.
Bread was next. Served like an architectural maquette of a Brutalist shopping centre, it featured a long hollow breadstick resting like Leith Street Bridge (RIP) on a wodge of focaccia, as well as a scallop-edged isosceles of crispbread and a tiny round loaf.
Our starters were great too. I had buttons of ravioli filled with a cheesy bechamel, lathered with an asparagus emulsion, and surrounded by soft shards of the albino version of this veg, all daubed with smoked egg yolk. I surfed that savoury wave.
The other option featured meaty hunks of octopus slopped in a salty soy-infused chickpea water, with nduja for a smoky flavour and finely milled sultanas for sweetness.
My monkfish main was an upmarket take on the rustic dish that is cacciatore (£23). As well as pale piscine fistfuls, it also boasted stamps of crisp chicken skin, blobs of puréed olive and red pepper, wilted oyster leaves, a cannellini bean emulsion and meaty cross sections of mushroom.
Across the table, my other half had gone for their most spendy dish – the dry aged beef (£27), with two fat pink slabs of meat, petals of kohlrabi, chargrilled cauliflower, caramelised hazelnuts, and a clod of melty ox cheek, all bathed in a surprisingly light jus.
All gorgeous, though, as with the fish dish, you could have taken two things off each plate, and they wouldn’t have been hugely missed.
Our choice of pudding, Evoo (extra virgin olive oil) cake (£10), was slightly challenging, with very little sweetness provided by the malty sponge, which came with segments of grapefruit, puffs of Campari foam, and a salty olive ice-cream.
Interesting, in a bitter and savoury way, though perhaps too sophisticated for my inner child.
Anyway, even if that dessert is too complex for baby-ish palates, the rest of the grub at this rather lovely new Italian is as singularly good as Michael Jackson’s glittery glove.
85 South Bridge, Edinburgh
(0131-466 4726, www.monorestaurant.co.uk)