It’s sometimes good to revisit places, particularly when you’ve had an experience that deviates from the conventional wisdom.
We visited Locanda de Gusti in November 2011 and had a pretty good lunch, but not quite what I’d expected from a place that boasts two AA rosettes, and is consistently spoken of as one of the best Italians in Edinburgh.
What did we miss during our visit? Did we catch them on a bad day? The only way to answer these questions was to pay it another visit. I was joined on this re-quest by Julian, who has previously lunched at La Garrigue and The Rosehip, amongst other places.
Maybe my recollection is a little fuzzy, but the exterior and interior both seemed a little brighter than on our previous visit. The welcome was warmer, too, so things got off to a good start.
We were seated at the window, and left to contemplate the menu. The selection was reminiscent of La Partenope, where I recently dined, with a good range of tempting sounding dishes.
Julian is a main and pudding man, whilst I’m resolutely a starter and main, meaning we tend to have a mid-lunch crossover, with solo start and finish. Such was the case, today.
I opened with a king prawn starter, which sounded rather fun, then we both opted for main course pizzas.
My starter quickly appeared and was rather good. It was a good number of simply cooked king prawns, served in a paper poke. They were well-seasoned and nicely prepared. Some sort of dippy sauce wouldn’t have gone amiss, but this was a solid opening.
Main courses were a completely different matter. I’d opted for a pizza bianco, combining rocket, mascarpone, balsamic, parmesan and Parma ham, while Julian went for the classic margarita.
The long and the short of it is that we both left around half of our pizzas, for contrasting reasons. Julian’s pizza was entirely too doughy and stodgy, making it hard work. The base of mine was a cremated crisp. I pointed to the charred remnants when the waiter asked if all was well, and he immediately made sure there was no charge for this dish on the bill.
Julian rounded his meal out with a traditional Italian dessert featuring fruit, sponge, ricotta and marzipan. It was plenty sweet enough, but was a good end to things.
Overall, I continue to be largely mystified by the spell that Locanda de Gusti seems to weave over people. An Italian restaurant where I end up effectively sending back a pizza? That’s the kind of thing that should simply never happen.
The total score I’ve awarded works out the same as last time, but a mark down on food and a mark up on service. They seem to have a lot of the elements required for a good restaurant, with smart design, good service, and well presented dishes, but of the lunches that Julian and I have met for in 2012, we agreed that this was the least successful in terms of the quality of food we were served.
Blythe scores Locanda de Gusti
2/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
4/5 for service
4/5 for setting
giving an overall 14/20
Today’s questers were: Julian, Blythe
We ate: king prawns, pizza margarita, pizza bianco, Italian ricotta and marzipan dessert
We drank: water, sparkly water, red wine, coffees
We wore: heavy coats
Total bill: £38.80