Skim-reading will be my downfall.
I thought I was going to this restaurant’s launch event.
“I’m here for the opening!” I said to the maitre d’, while I desperately searched the gloom behind him for signs of a socially-distanced party.
He humoured me, took my name, and led me to my table.
For the past 14 years, I have always reviewed incognito, while sugar daddy/mummy, The Scotsman, picks up my bill.
Not this time. The restaurant’s PR had booked me in. They knew what I was there to do.
I was “madam” and “the lady” all night.
Instead of heading home and eating the leftover fish pie, we went with the flow.
If it was bad, we’d pay up and leave, never speaking of the faux pas again.
If it was good, I’d write my review, and fess up.
Owned by twenty-something entrepreneur Stefano Pieraccini of The Rocca Group, which includes Edinburgh bar, The Broughton, and The Seafood Ristorante in St Andrews, this new Italian restaurant is also opening Rico’s Pasta Bar at the St James Quarter on July 22.
Their bigger outpost is pretty sexy, in a Vettriano sort of way. It’s all red and black, with nudes on the walls, red velvet chairs and party music. Frank Sinatra is piped into the toilets. I know many places like this in Glasgow, not so much in Edinburgh.
The only obvious leftover from when it was a Martin Wishart restaurant, The Honours, which closed during lockdown, is the monochrome striped marble floor.
We skipped the chicchetti, and went straight to antipasti.
I wondered if they’d bunged a bit extra onto the plate, to keep the restaurant reviewing madam happy, when it came to the fried day boat squid (£10).
It included about three sleeves of cephalopod torso and tentacles, all clad in batter pods that were golden like Lurex tights, and there was a thick and pink saffron mayo and half a charred lemon on the side. If I had 10p for every time I’ve had a mediocre version of this ubiquitous dish, I’d be able to buy my own day boat, and one for night too. This was a rarely satisfying version.
Apart from a dollhouse-sized scythe of crab shell, the risotto la riviera (£13) was lovely too, thanks to plenty of East Coast crab meat, a salty shellfish bisque, chilli, coriander and a dill plumage. Feisty, yet wholesome.
Mr Double Carbs also went for the primi piatti pasta course of ravioli di spinaci e ricotta (£18), which featured yolky yellow bolsters stuffed with a green and iron-y mulch and topped by a ladleful of melted butter, toasted pine nuts and sage leaves.
I haven’t had red meat for a while, but the carre di agnello arrosto (£26) sorted my blood lust. There were pink pads of lamb loin, as well as pieces of violet artichoke, a fishy, rich and balmy greige-coloured bagna cauda, as well as a plank of a slow cooked and fattier cut, which was caramelised and dusted by an anchovy powder. (The smell reminded me of my late goldfish, Mungo, and his flakes. I’m sure he would’ve enjoyed this dish as much as I did, bless his fins).
This plates also featured a single rosemary potato sort of croquette, which we’d also ordered as an unnecessary side of stacked-up patate al rosmarino (£4). Mr Triple Carbs finished them.
I wouldn’t usually go for gelato (£6.50), since it’s a bit boring, but I’d already chucked the rule book out of the window. Also, there were some great flavours - chocolate and coffee sorbet (glossy, with a sugary pep), vanilla and, presumably made to go together, one lipstick-colored summery strawberry and another of basil. I ate them as the bright colours blended together like a messy watercolour palette.
We also tried the Amalfi lemon tart (£7), which had a yellow filling that was feathery light and toasted on top, and came with an excellent raspberry sorbet and a couple of fat raspberries.
“Can I have the bill please?” I asked.
“It’s on the house, madam”.
Dang, if we’d known,the lady would have tried a few more of their cocktails, since the fruity and sour Rico's slipper - Calvados, Caorunn Gin, apricot, lime and orange tea reduction, £14 - was the drinkable version of a marabou-feathered pair of baffies.
Anyway, normal service will be resumed next week.
If any invites come in, I will be reading the small print.
58a North Castle Street
(0131 322 6750, www.ricosristorante.co.uk)
How much? Dinner for two, excluding drinks, £84.50
Places to try Nearby
This vodka brand’s cocktail terrace is popping up outside Tigerlily until the end of September. They’re serving up creations including the Orchard Blossom Fix with Belvedere Organics Pear and Ginger, Bittered Sling Lem-Marrakech and soda.
This is a popular spot for cocktails, with versions including the roku gin (Fever Tree Ginger Ale, lime and ginger). Drink these with light bites including lobster nuggets with green goddess mayo.
This place is the original pasta destination in the centre of town. Try their Scottish lobster and spaghettini with pan fried Datterini tomatoes with Amalfi lemon, parsley and chilli.