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85-87 Newington Rd,,
City of Edinburgh,
0131 662 9977
Mon closed, Tues 5-10pm, Wed, Thurs 12–10:30pm, Fri & Sat 12–11pm, Sun 12–10pm

Sardo ‘artiginale’ 

Unremarkable. This was my first impression of Isola as I peeked through the window. I had arrived ahead of my companion who had previously  noticed this predominantly Italian restaurant whilst at Wood Winters wine shop next door. She registered a ‘Sardinian twist’ along with a courageous sounding dessert of panna cotta with radicchio. As I squinted, she arrived and it was time to 'give it a go'. 

The menu is large incorporating fish, vegan (there’s a quinoa burger) steak and seafood three coursers alongside lists of pizzas, risottos and Sardinian specialities. Whilst a small menu is currently revered for seasonality, this did not impede Isola’s tome which was also alert to points of difference and a variety of tastes. The gazpacho caught both our eyes (the weather was hot) as did the octopus. Eventually however, we decided to skip starters and both ordered fresh pasta with pear and Taleggio. 

Oooh - from my first bite it was obvious this was special. Liz was a few bites ahead of me and already smiling. The sauce was silky and ultra rich, the ravioli soft with a textural sweet pear and potato stuffing. She commented that the orange and green brunoise of carrot, courgette and chives was attractive and technically adept. A few discs of shaved black truffle were thrown in for good measure along with some Jamie Oliver style drizzles of truffle oil. The bread on the table - crispy crust, fresh and fluffy - was made that morning. A glass of golden Vermentino was an oily bitter citrus foil to the pasta and I would quite happily drink a lot more of it. 

Time for that panna cotta radicchio, ordered across the table. Made with full cream it had good wobble credentials whilst the intriguing orange and radicchio sauce was pronounced ‘delicious, textural and colourful’. For me zabaglione made on the spot (we heard the eggs being whisked) and served in a martini glass slightly warm and very frothy.  They don’t hold back on the Marsala! The food of love in a cocktail glass. 

I will certainly be heading back to Isola to try more dishes and I suspect Liz will do the same.  The key word, she pointed out was ‘artiginale’ – homemade and with that seemingly innate Italian reverence for ingredients (saffron is used in many dishes).  Provenance was to the fore and staff were evidently Sardinian.

And for those of you of a certain vintage this is the site of the legendary Brattisanis where everyone went for chips after the Commie Pool. Those were the days. (S. Wilson) 

More Italian restaurant reviews here  

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