I am getting on. My tastebuds are fading, my teeth crumbly and I have to squint to see the small print on menus. Constant reflux and cholesterol deposits in my retinas act as memento moris.
With these jolly thoughts in mind, I have been training up the next generation, Mr Miyagi style, to take over the family business (it’s a poison pen clause in my Scotsman contract).
My heirs, the nieces, have been coming along to restaurant reviews with me since they were babies, and now I have a two-month-old nephew, who is impatient to be weaned and also trained in the Soutar ways.
On our visit to this new place, I thought the rugrats could take over a bit, and let their auntie relax.
It’s the perfect venue, since they worship at the altar of pizza. I remember hating it when I was a kid, but that was back when Findus French Bread Pizzas were all the rage and most frozen ones had bases like giant digestive biscuits.
This small restaurant serves the Neopolitan variety, straight from its wood fired oven. Downstairs, there are heaped bags of 00 flour and cans of San Marzano tomatoes, so they know their art.
We ordered a few Small Plates to start. When it came to the mozzarella fritta (£3.50) – breaded wands of stringy melted cheese, with a mild arrabiata sauce on the side – the eldest niece did what she does when she LOVES something edible. She stands up.
It seems to be instinctive, so she can have a bird’s eye view of the table, and intercept any rivals’ incoming hands. After being told to sit down for the trillionth time, her verdict was “OMP, they are amazing”.
I don’t know what the P is for, but we’ve never corrected her – it’s funny.
I usually find arancini (£3.50) a bit stodgy, but these russet balls were goodies, with peas, mozzarella and a meaty ragu in the rice blend. They vanished quickly. Since everyone wanted pizza next, we also tried one of the pasta dishes as a starter.
Their gnocchi (£7.50) was melty and creamy, with perfect pellets, like the pre-chewed contents of a hamster’s cheek, garlic, white wine, mushrooms, threads of taleggio and a plume of thyme. The girls weren’t that bothered, but the grown-ups had been wooed.
For our pizza course, the small people went for half-and-half Anchovies (£7.50) and Tomato San Marzano (£5), both also with basil, garlic, oregano and extra virgin olive oil as well as the billed toppings. Two tomato-smudged thumbs up. “So juicy!”, said one of the mini-Ruth Reichls in waiting.
I loved the Speck (£8) pizza. The billowing granite-coloured dough almost made me want to eat the crusts first, before tackling the toppings, which included a high tog duvet of fior di latte, which was piebald with feisty gorgonzola, as well as a drizzle of acacia honey and crumbled walnuts.
They’d been similarly generous with the fior di latte cheese, when it came to the Artichoke pizza (£8), also with shreds of cotto ham, sugo, black olives and chunks of artichoke.
High on cans of fruity San Pellegrino, the junior reviewing team wanted the Nutella pizza (£4) for pudding, and we couldn’t refuse, as they’d despatched their main courses so effectively.
However, I ended up eating most of it, since you could pretty much spread anything – in this case, lashings of chocolate spread and crumbled pistachio – on one of this place’s bases and it’d taste good.
We also had the Neapolitan baba al rum (£4.25), for adults only, with a chef’s hat-shaped brioche saturated in booze. And there was a ricotta pistachio torta (£4), topped with a cloud of spun sugar, that got slightly neglected amongst the piggery.
What do you think, girls?
“I love this place, a million out of ten,” said the eldest. “Only one out of 10. It’s bad,” said the little one, then admitted she was joking. The baby said nothing.
OMP, I’m afraid they’re not quite ready yet. It looks as if I shall be continuing to squint at menus for the foreseeable.
59 Great Junction Street, Edinburgh, (0131-554 4748)