Edinburgh’s Quartermile has changed a lot since it was a ramshackle hospital. I was rather fond of the place – it’s convenient with a hospital in the middle of town – but have followed the area’s change with interest. Over the last few years, more of the flats have been completed and units have appeared nested in with the office buildings and housing. What happens to these is important to the area because they provide the lifeblood, the interest and facilities, to the area around it. It’s great to see more of the units filling up with shops and restaurants.
A couple of weeks ago, I visited Enzo, an Italian restaurant and bar that caters to the local business community, as well as anyone who wants a drink and good food. Enzo wants to revive the Edinburgh bar and restaurant culture, combining the two into one perfect location for socialising. This means that they have a tempting bar menu as well as a full restaurant a la carte menu. It was this that I investigated.
My dining companion works in the Infomatics building at the University so we met up there and walked across George Square, past Peter’s Yard, Looking Glass Books and the gym until we came to the large open square where Enzo sits. The bar downstairs is open and warm, a nice place to have a bottle of prosecco at the end of the week, or a drink with friends mid-week. But we were headed past the long, inviting bar, upstairs to the restaurant proper where the food is quality, stripped back Italian. Our table looked out over the square, a mixture of sharp new office buildings and some of the old hospital buildings. It’s a nice place to sit and watch the sun go down and in summer, the outside space itself will be a great place to linger.
We’d decided to share a bottle of light red wine, a Beaujolais, which worked well with our different dishes. It was a Tuesday, and the restaurant was relaxed and relatively quiet. We enjoyed eating and drinking, looking out over the square and commenting on people passing by.
Raw and delicious
For our starters, we went raw. My companion had a trio of tuna – carpaccio, tartar and seared. The tuna flavour came though nicely and was complemented, not overpowered, by tomatoes, basil and lemon zest. It was fresh and refreshing. I, meanwhile, had carne cruda, a duo of carpaccio with Parmesan and steak tartare. Both were very good but the quail yoke that came with it stole the show. It was perfectly soft and creamy and felt utterly luxurious with a drizzle of truffle dressing.
The menu offer a range of classic starters with a twist: 24-month aged Parma ham with melon and a melon and mint shot sounds refreshing. A cone of fried calamari, small fish, prawns and courgette is a lovely combination of fried morsels. The salted cod brandade was a serious contender for me too. Should you want something more snacky, you can start with bread, oils and balsamic.
When I’m trying a restaurant for the first time, there’s always a bit of discussion about who’s having what. I don’t want to duplicate dishes but give the restaurant as many chances as possible to shine. This time, we discussed whether to go fish + fish and meat + meat, or whether one of us should try pasta. In the end, I followed my duo of beef with a braised, Ligurian-style rabbit leg. My companion had the Ligurian sea bass fillet cooked in paper with olives, courgettes, cherry tomatoes and potatoes.
We’d both considered the spaghetti alla puttanesca seriously, and I will go back to try it. Puttanesca is one of my favourite pasta sauces. It’s punchy, clean flavours are wonderful on a cold, rainy day. There were other pasta dishes that tempted too: the seafood linguine sounded lovely, and sea bass and leek ravioli in langoustine bisque was hard to resist. I was also rather tempted by the black ink risotto. There’s something peculiarly attractive about black food.
The rabbit was gamey and rich, and a whole leg is a generous serving. I enjoy eating things off the bone. It adds a level of interaction with the food, a step between that slows me down a little (a good thing!) and helps me enjoy what I’m eating. The rabbit came with potatoes, olives and pine nuts, a combination which gave a rich country flavour to the dish. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The fish was lighter in character, altogether more delicate, and very fresh.
With our mains, we shared a side of pan fried rosemary courgette, a dish my companion’s mother makes. We had to compare! This was different from what he grew up with but still very nice. I enjoyed the combination of courgette and rosemary, it’s not one I would have tried. I’d be concerned that the herb was too strong for the delicate flavour of courgette. If served in the right amounts, it isn’t.
Tickling our sweet teeth
Deciding on a dessert was tricky: between the two of us, we wanted everything. The waiter, who had been looking after us with kind attention all night, told us that the tiramisu was particularly good. I like to follow recommendations but we had both already made up our minds. I had an orange and almond cake and my companion the pannacotta.
I make, I think, a very good orange and almond cake. This was better. Rich and moist, it was served with an orange sauce which added a marmalade tang. It was everything I want an orange and almond cake to be and made me feel excited about oranges. The panna cotta too was lovely, it’s creamy texture nicely set of by a crisp tuille and it’s smooth flavour enhanced with fruity couli.
What I like about Enzo is the variety of what they offer. The food is great, and I can see myself coming in for a drink of an evening and having a few snacks in the bar, or moving upstairs for a meal. The bar is elegant and airy, with a tall cailing and dark, textured walls. The restaurant is similarly stylish and more intimate. The large windows that are so much part of the new Quartermile architecture let in light and let you look out.
If you need a reason to visit, they have special offers on pizza and drinks during the week, and a DJ on Thursday and Friday. Enzo are open in the morning and through lunch so you can visit any time of day.
ENZO Bar Restaurant
8 Lister Square
Edinburgh, EH3 9GL
Telephone: 0131 229 4634