In a bid to keep things local during lockdown, Catriona Thomson tries out a food collection service from Cibo restaurant near Penicuik

These are strange times in which we are living and regular restaurant reviews have rightly been put on the back burner.

My family and I have got used to the unique joys of communal living, working and schooling together 24/7.

I love them all dearly, but there have been a few tense moments.

A welcome break for me has been rewatching Stranger Things on Netflix, revisiting the show through the prism of Covid-19.

The basic premise is an alien lifeforce intent on taking over the world, so absolutely no similarity to just now.

Each night I have been transfixed by the comings and goings of Hawkins in Indiana, and all the crazy characters who live there.

These include the flawed police chief Hopper, Eleven, a young girl with otherworldly powers, and best friends Will, Mike, Dustin and Lucas.

Plus there’s the romantic sideshow of Nancy and Steve “The Hair” Harrington’s on-off love affair.

What immediately struck me was the plentiful abundance of PPE available to the scientific boffins as they battle the alien beasts.

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A long time ago, before lockdown, I used to pass a small Italian restaurant on my daily commute.

Do you remember doing a regular slog into work each day?

Cibo, named for the Italian word for food, overlooks the oversized Gowkley Moss roundabout outside Penicuik.

It is not a fancy establishment, however, as we explore all things ultra-local, this Italian restaurant has lured me in with a speedy transformation from sit-in to offering a collection and delivery service, so result!

I’m a sucker for an underdog triumphing over adversity storyline and this place fits the bill nicely with lots of good recommendations from the “hivemind”, or local resident forum on Facebook.

Anything to break the monotony of opening a kitchen cupboard and staring blankly before scratching my head and creating yet another culinary surprise.

Normally this place is somewhere you’d take your mum for Sunday lunch, or the fella for a night out.

They would welcome you inside with a smile, remembering you from the last time, and kindly ask how the kids are.

We placed our order online via Just Eat, which from a socially distanced conversation in the car park, we established the restaurant had only recently joined.

Cibo Restaurant

They have had a bit of a steep learning curve. When I asked how things were going, they replied “better now – we didn’t have enough drivers, to begin with, and people had to wait. I hope you enjoy your meal.”

My heart melts, can you imagine the pain of making such massive changes to how your business runs.

The catering and hospitality sector has been decimated by the effects of lockdown; many like Cibo have had to adapt to survive.

With the clandestine handover done, I headed for home with the boxed and packaged goods.

The family rush to greet me at the door with open arms, not affection obviously, just hunger, anticipation and the novelty of someone else’s cooking.

We had selected a starter of focaccia aglio e rosmarino, a round flat pizza bread, all salty and doused in olive oil skewered with aromatic rosemary which released its vapours the second the lid of the box opened.

We had also ordered a portion of garlic bread, which consisted of only three slices free-ranging inside their full-sized cardboard box.

The fella had been pining for a retro taste of his youth in the guise of a plateful of salmone e gambereretti – smoked salmon and prawns – served with a Marie Rose sauce.

Foolishly, I forgot to place the order, and his response was as melodramatic as any small screen apocalypse.

But he soon forgave me and finished his sulk to dive into to his main course, which featured lanky ribbons of linguine with Italian sausage, fresh porcini mushrooms and cream.

He demolished it with gusto but admitted it was a bit bland.

My dish, risotto allo zafferano, was sadly a bit of a dud. I had imagined supporting Scottish farmers and fresh seasonal produce with my choice but it arrived sans any hint of the promised asparagus, the rice glowing bright yellow from an overabundance of saffron.

No matter, the weans fared better with their steaming pizzas robustly made with fresh dough; blisters bubbled on the surface from the heat of the oven and their chewy texture gave our jaws a good work out.

We had ordered a classic margherita and a crowd-pleaser pollo, spinaci e funghi misti pizza – that’s a tomato, mozzarella, chicken, spinach and mixed wild mushrooms to you.

Our big meal in was a bit of a mixed bag but we all needed a bit of a cheering up, facing the unseen dangers, not to mention the longueurs, of this awful virus.

Perhaps it was foolish to break out of lockdown and expect this meal to be perfect.

However, the future looks bright as this place has plenty of local support.

Cibo Restaurant

(1 Southroad End, Milton Bridge,
Penicuik EH26 0NX)
Tel: 01968 676 676, www.cibo-restaurant.co.uk

 

Cibo, Milton Bridge, Penicuik, Restaurant Review
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About The Author

Catriona Thomson

Catriona picture edits The Scotsman magazine and Scotland On Sunday, aswell as reviewing restaurants for Scotland on Sunday and writing for Scotsman Food and Drink.

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