Get your bob cut elsewhere. This new place isn’t a branch of the famous hairdresser, with the “on” knocked off the sign.
It’s an Italian restaurant, which may be named after the Italian word for rock, stone, or pebble. Perhaps this is a reference to the shingly bit of beach along the road, or the Armada Stone, dated 1588, which hangs on a wall in this area (the former fishing village of Newhaven) and is rumoured to commemorate the sinking of a Spanish Armada ship in the vicinity.
Or maybe it’s just a metaphor for this sturdy anchor of a building. It was formerly the Peacock Inn, built in 1767, and, after a couple of centuries of watching flats spring up to blot its view and a spell as the Peacock Hotel, this is its new name. No pressure for the new owner, Remo Margiotta, son of the founder of the capital’s chain of Margiotta convenience stores.
"The scallops seemed to be an experiment that had gone horribly wrong"
He has certainly blinged up the interior – it’s smart, yet non-intimidatingly so, with loads of young families on our early dinnertime visit.
Once we’d settled, we were offered some smooth and spherical bread rolls, all of which turned out to be unbelievably stale. You could break a window with one, or skim them if they were flatter. Still, we bravely attempted to crunch our way through the sassos, like Gila monsters eating thick-shelled tortoises.
Never mind, at least a starter of beer-battered squid (£7.25) was relatively consoling. There were hoops and legs, all thickly crusted in a beige batter, with a wedge of lemon and a full ramekin of baby pink paprika-ish “nduja dip” on the side. Fine.
Our pan-fried king scallops (£8.90) seemed to be an experiment that had gone horribly wrong. Looked pretty, tasted weird. There was a brick of what looked like the filling that had slithered out of a custard slice, but which turned out to be a cold cauliflower and coconut panna cotta. Sitting on this were two undercooked fishy stubs. I’m sure this pair, who we called Inky and Pinky, were blushing about the wobbly sweet waterbed that they were having to rodeo on.
The best of our three mains was probably the braised shin of beef (£15.50). From the bottom, it featured a pool of red wine infused gravy, a slick blob of buttery mash, a julienned carrot pyre, then a scoop of soft shredded beef. Pleasantly cockle warming – the sort of thing you’d want to eat if you’d just been shipwrecked.
However, the other two dishes were less successful. The chef had decided to go for an artful gussied-up plate again (see fig.1, scallops) when it came to the rather unsatisfying pork tenderloin (£14.95). Served on a black dish, it featured two overcooked fists of meat, crisped up golden and magenta beetroot sails, a teaspoonful of buttery leeks, some blobs of apple sauce and, in a side dish, a very mean helping of around eight oily and starchy sweet rosemary wedges.
The orecchiette pugliesi (£11) was the real honker. Beyond the pale green lug-shaped pasta shells, topped with breadcrumbs and Parmesan, there was almost zero flavour. Though anchovies and chillies had been billed, they didn’t even get a walk on part. “Watery,” was the verdict, and 93 per cent was left on the plate. Nobody on the staff asked why.
Our pair of puddings might have been the best bit, but it’s hard to go wrong with a brick of sticky toffee pudding (£5.50), which came with a ladle of salted caramel sauce and a scoop of fior di latte ice-cream. Although we couldn’t really taste the aged grappa in the chocolate fondant (£5.50), that didn’t prevent it from getting demolished like the Red Road flats. Mango sauce was served separately, so we could pour it on to our spoons and administer it like a pleasing version of cod liver oil.
So, Sasso isn’t exactly sinking like a stone, like one of its bread rolls might, but it’s not skimming across the surface either. We’ll wait and see if it gets its edges smoothed over, like a Newhaven pebble.
Dinner for three, excluding drinks, £68.60
100 Lindsay Road, Edinburgh
(0131-552 2111, www.sassoedinburgh.com )