Origano manages to carry off the neat trick of being hidden in plain sight, very smartly. Even although it’s front and centre on Leith Walk, it retains a completely understated charm, both outside and inside.
My cab driver for the evening (an ankle injury picked up on Thursday has rendered me somewhat immobile and sadly incapable of walking the required couple of miles) couldn’t even spot in as we gaily drove past, even although he had full address details which he was tracking on his satnav.
But once you have managed to lock it in your gaze, it’s a place you’ll want to remember, as what they serve and the way they serve it will have you coming back for more, on many future occasions.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. This represented our first re-acquaintance with Edinburgh restaurants following our little sojourn to London and Oxford. It was nice to get back in to things, after a little over a week out of the usual routine.
The menu is very focussed, with some simple starter options, comprising bread, bruschetta or antipasto platters, then pizza, pasta or salad to follow. I liked this approach, but it may not please everyone, particularly those used to Italians offering a wide panoply of options.
One thing to add is that they are happy to provide additional off-menu options, as MJ was quick to discover. She wasn’t in the mood for pizza, so fancied a simple pasta dish, but there wasn’t one that offered a tomato-based sauce, but was light on cheese. The helpful waitress suggested that the kitchen would happily prepare a spicy arrabiata, which was music to MJ’s ears. So, if the menu feels constraining to you, I suggest the “seek and you shall find” approach may bear appropriate fruit.
As the candlelit place filled to its 20 seat capacity, we contemplated our options. We decided that a shared antipasto platter was the best way to open, the gentlemen opted for pizza, while MJ negotiated her way to pasta treats, in her usual gorgeous style.
The antipasto platter was very nice. It featured lovely mozzarella, a selection of bresaola and salami, subtly garlicky butter, good pesto rosso, and a simple but flavour-packed rocket and parmesan salad, accompanied by freshly toasted bread. It was an excellent prelude to the main event.
Their pizzas come in three sizes, with 11″ and 14″ available for those who can resist the prospect of the 16″ pizza, something to which I cannot lay claim.
When they arrived, simply presented on wooden paddles, the pizzas looked spectacular. My spinacio had two eggs to accompany the spinach, gorgonzola and grana padano. Both yolks were perfectly runny, too, so I was in Florentine heaven.
With admirable restraint, Michael and Malcolm had opted for the 14″ options on their pizzas, and I have to say that the bases of their were a little thicker than on my one. I don’t know whether this is routinely the way, but if you favour the thinner base, the 16″ (perhaps to share, rather than following my gluttonous lead) is the way forward.
A 16″ pizza is a considerable undertaking, but it was far from the eating challenge you might think. The crisp, light base was the key, allowing the focus to be on the excellent marriage of topping flavours. I was highly delighted by each and every slice.
Good espresso rounded out what had been a really very enjoyable evening. The extremely reasonable bill that soon followed added further gloss to a glorious dining experience.
So overall, Origano is an outstanding little place, serving the best pizza that we’ve found in the city, so far. The setting has a really intimate, welcoming feel to it, that transports you from the heart of Leith to somewhere a little bit away from the hustle and bustle. And what’s more, they do takeaway, too, so you can sample their impressive pizza delights from the comfort of your own home. If you’re a pizza fan, this place is a must visit, as it really is very good indeed.
I’ve been walking by Origano for months now, looking into the intimate dining room and waiting for the chance to pop in and see if they really do have some of the best pizza in the city. And, the other night, it came to pass that Sir Blythe had secured us a booking with his (and now my) friends who were trying to visit all the places in Leith before they move across the city, because we all know that if you leave Leith, we don’t ever let you come back to visit.
I arrived straight after work and was feeling a bit tired and the warm interior of Origano was just what I needed to start to set me at ease. The small setting simply begs for you to come in and while away an evening over wines and the small but perfectly formed menu that they serve.
After a bit of chatter, we had decided what to order. We chose a mixed platter of their antipasti and I decided to be difficult and see what sorts of tomato based pasta dishes they could make me, or if they could at all. I should say that they do offer three pastas on the menu (and I wasn’t feeling up to a pizza-but I WILL be back to give it a go..likely the big 16” one too), a lasagna, a carbonara, and a creamy one with gorgonzola. Three cheesy, creamy pastas, not my thing. Upon Blythe’s encouragement, I asked if they could do anything else that was tomato based and the lovely waitress (who had mastered the role of ‘there when you need her and not hovering’ serving style that I have only really appreciated in Piatto Verde) said that yes, they used to have arrabiata on the menu and they could throw that together for me, no problem. I was delighted.
The other three men ordered pizzas. When the starter board arrived, it was a lovely fresh array of sliced meats (the bresaola was particularly delicious and prompted talk of the venison version they sell in Cranachan and Crowdie on the Royal Mile), and the rocket was fresher than any I’ve had in a long while. The large portion of fresh mozzarella bordered with small tomatoes and the dressing of grana padano cheese and a balsamic reduction on the rocket was perfect to offset the peppery leaves. The bread looked nice, but nondescript and the marinated olives and the red pepper spread finished off the board with a different and delicious touch.
The bottle of wine from the small but all-Italian list was well priced and a bottle that worked well with the entire meal. When our mains arrived, brought out by the chefs, the large, round, wooden cutting boards were fantastic and put the funny variety of trays and plates that we have been served pizzas on before to shame. The pizzas even came with their own pizza cutters. A nice touch that is often overlooked.
My pasta was a nicely sized portion that looked fresh and piping hot. Of course I dug right in. The flavours were quite good, the spice of the peppers and the cooked onions in the tomato base mingled really well with the variety of meats and lardoons that were used to add a depth to the dish that I have often missed before in versions of this dish.
The one thing that I would like to overlook, but simply cannot is that the pasta was overcooked to the point of falling apart on the fork. Which is a sad thing since the sauce itself was so lovely, but must be mentioned since it is one of the worst offences that can happen to a dish of pasta.
But overall, I really enjoyed the entire experience, from antipasti to espresso (which was nice), and I am pleased that there is such a wee gem in my neck of the woods, and if it hasn’t enticed you down for their pizzas yet: come and get them; they may be the best in the city… Oh, and if you can’t be bothered to go out, they deliver too.
Blythe scores Origano
4.5/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
4/5 for service
4/5 for setting
giving an overall 16.5/20
MJ scores Origano
3/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
4/5 for service
4.5/5 for setting
giving an overall 15.5/20 (this must be based on my pasta…the pizza was fabulous and if I were judging on that solely, I would give it a higher score)
Today’s questers were: Miriam, Malcolm, Michael, Blythe
We ate: mixed antipasto, penne arrabiata, cajun chicken pizza, ruccola pizza, spinacio pizza
We drank: red wine, water, coffees
We wore: hat, scarf, jacket, bandage
Total bill: £71.50