Great Places to Eat in Scotland
- Zucca, Edinburgh
This smart new Italian café and restaurant has taken over the wining and dining space formerly known as Marque Central. Although located beside the Royal Lyceum theatre, Zucca is owned and managed entirely as a separate business and open for coffee, snacks, lunch and dinner. The café/restaurant has a normal street entrance as well as double swing doors on the mezzanine level directly to and from the theatre beside the front stalls. This is so convenient for theatre goers who can indulge in the pleasure of a pre theatre supper before walking just a few steps to their seat before curtain up. While other theatres in Edinburgh have a bar for a drink before the show, the Royal Lyceum is unique in having the artistic luxury of a restaurant, off stage right. (Ed. No jokes about Shakespeare's famous line, "Exit, pursued by a bear"!).
For those who remember Marque Central, out has gone the white linen tablecloths and modern Scottish cuisine, replaced by polished black marble tables, beech wood chairs and stripped wood flooring. Around the walls are framed posters of Lyceum theatre productions - fun to spot all the plays you have enjoyed over recent years. The bright and airy duplex space has an all day coffee house downstairs with the restaurant upstairs which in itself is divided into two sections - the stylish banquette L shaped dining area around the far wall, and the "café" area between the spiral staircase and the bar. I do not understand the mixed design within the restaurant space. When offered a (rather uncomfortable) wooden chair and table right at the top of the stairs, I suggested the banquette seating in a cosy romantic corner at the other side of the restaurant. Much more comfortable for a leisurely dinner. On this occasion we were there for the evening and not rushing next door in time for curtain up.
Zucca (which is Italian for pumpkin) is owned by Richard Glennie and Giacomo Drago Ferrante. Richard was formerly the head chef of the Sheraton Hotel's Santini restaurant and also Channings Hotel both of which specialised in fine Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. In charge of the restaurant is the welcoming and very professional Maitre d' Len McCarthy who has wide experience in several 5 star hotels and leading restaurants in Ireland.
The Food and Drink
This is a smart contemporary Italian restaurant with a smart contemporary menu. I like its simple, straightforward layout, with neat sections: starters, salads, pastas, meat and fish, sides, and dolci. Prices are extremely reasonable and again straightforward (£4 and £10.00). On the opposite page, the wine list, also clearly labelled under fruity and dry whites, light or full bodied reds, each individually described. And congratulations on offering a glass of Prosecco at £4.75. You can't go to the theatre without a glass of bubbly!
The cuisine emphasises fresh, tasty good food celebrating the fine seafood, salads and vegetable dishes of the healthy Mediterranean diet, such as Insalata di Fregula - Sardinian cous cous with olives, scamorza cheese and tomato. There's a fine selection of starters, including fresh pastas - Zucca ravioli (with pumpkin and safe butter) also served as a main course. I selected a classic Italian antipasti starter : Crostini e bruschetta - toasted garlic bread topped with goat's cheese, roasted vegetables, artichokes and tomatoes. A mini feast tasting of sunshine. Alternatively, parma ham with figs and Scallops wrapped in pancetta.
The descriptions of all dishes are extremely appetising, detailing all the ingredients. My dining companion opted for the Seared Tuna with sweet and sour aubergine, red onion salsa and gremolata sauce (garlic, parsley and lemon peel). This was voted 10/10 and consumed in minutes. I selected Linguine al frutti di mare, a bowl of thin pasta ribbons, piled high with mussels, clams, calamari, and tiger prawns, drizzled with a chilli and tomato sauce. And in our wine glass, a smooth, ripe, plummy Chianti Rufina from Tuscany.
As you would expect from this fine dining Italian restaurant, the selection of Dolci covers all classic usual suspects - Tiramisu, Panna Cotta and Gelati.
After such a feast, we decided to share an assortment of homemade ice cream - a cooling dessert to cleanse the palate. Perfect.
Contact the Zucca Web site for current menu and prices.
Zucca is at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, 15 Grindlay Street, Edinburgh EH3 9AX. For reservations and more information, telephone 0131 221 9323, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or go to the Zucca Web site.
What a transformation from the former restaurant and certainly a welcome change with a bright, casual design and outlook. Zucca is very much part of the Lyceum and the ideal place to wine and dine before seeing a play - but this is a superb upmarket Italian ristorante in its own right for lunch and dinner at any time. Friendly service, fine food and wine, great value menu. Try the set price Menu Espresso served between 12 and 2.30pm, ideal for office workers nearby or city centre shoppers - just a 5 minute walk from West End. The food is prepared and presented with artistic and (dare I say) dramatic flair. With salads, fish and pasta of this quality and freshness, no wonder the Mediterranean diet is renowned as the healthiest in the world.
© Vivien Devlin
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