Can you put a sparkler on her dessert or something?” I asked on the phone to this new Italian restaurant.
Argh, the difficulties in explaining that, on your visit, it’ll be your sister’s birthday and you want to do something cheesy and unsophisticated, through a language barrier/dodgy phone line.
“Yes, we can do a candle,” was the eventual response, after we’d had a bit of a Two Ronnies style four candles style conversation (it was her big 4-0).
I really hoped her tiramisu wouldn’t have fork handles poked into it.
Anyway, we always end up visiting Italian restaurants for birthdays. Doesn’t everyone? It’s a style of food that’s always a treat, never a chore.
With a bunch of young ‘uns at the helm, this unobtrusive place has opened in a basement premises on a corner in Stockbridge, where Spanish eatery Rafael’s used to be.
There’s a sign outside that features a Tim Burton-esque looking stark bare tree against white – a reference, presumably, to their name, which translates as roots. Their schtick is “earthy, simple and natural” food, and, though the menu has a few modern twists and there are loads of organic ingredients, maked by an (O), most dishes are familiar classics.
We’ll see how it goes, as it can be a tough crowd in this part of town – sometimes new restaurants are completely shunned, while others will survive for decades longer than they would in any other Edinburgh neighbourhood.
I’d say the signs are positive so far, since it was a full house on our visit and we got a two hour slot before they needed the table back.
The starter choices don’t sound hugely inspiring, but we went for a pleasant pane and tartufo (£6.50). It featured two slices of toasted sourdough topped with scratchings of subtly musky black truffle (from the Le Marche region, apparently), as well as the rather idiosyncratic ingredient of “pink Himalayan salt” (usually used for its purported health benefits) and extra virgin olive oil, for a sodium rich umami flavour that gave the olfactory glands a high intensity workout.
Served on a square slate, the slightly underseasoned calamari (£7.50) was pleasant too, and a huge helping – the hoops like a pile of quoits, alongside clumps of tender tentacles – though there needed to be a lot more of the accompanying tartar sauce.
My dish of salmon (£13) main was dreamy-looking, decorated with borage flowers, but oh so light, so don’t choose it if you’ve got the appetite of a long-haul trucker. There was flaked and peppered salmon with chunks of soft fennel, lemon zest, olive oil, feathery dill, and piped-on florets of creamy fresh robiola cheese, plus two chunks of sourdough.
We were also won over by the raviola noci and tartufo (£14.50), with six circular bolsters of thin pasta, each pudgy thanks to a stuffing of sweet walnut cream, and topped with truffle shavings, crumbled nuts and plenty of Parmesan shavings.
This was quickly polished off, in case the feral grey squirrels from Dean Path caught the scent and mugged us. “I could have eaten two platefuls of that, no bother,” said one enthusiastic dining partner.
The agnello alla Scottadito (£14.50) was another winner, two clod-like lumps of lamb chop with pink middles and a side of “round chips” – aka fat potato crisps – as well as a pile of darkest forest green cavolo nero.
When it came to dessert, our crema bruciata (£5.50) wasn’t that exciting and not very lemony or coffee-ish, but smoothly textured. The pudding of chocolate and salted caramel tart (£6) was rock hard, so I’m not sure how they’d managed to get the candle in without some Black & Decker equipment and rawl plugs.
Still, the flame flickered on top of this slice of malty, biscuity chocolatey-ness, which was teamed with a pastel pink macaron, a clutch of blueberries and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.
Although the food might be a little too simple for some, we were seduced by that. I’m sure the locals will be too.
Anyway, at least they managed one candle, rather than fork handles, we all got to sing happy birthday and it was a good night for me, and a good night for her.