Tuesday, 22 September 2009
RESTAURANT REVIEW: Bella Mbriana
FOR MANY OF US WESTERNERS, OUR IDEA OF ITALIAN CUISINE IS SLIGHTLY SKEWED AS WE ARE GENERALLY OFFERED ANY NUMBER OF VARIATIONS ON PASTA, CHEESE, BREAD AND TOMATO SAUCE. THAT'S ALL GOOD STUFF, DON'T GET ME WRONG, BUT ITALY IS A BIG PLACE AND THESE FAMOUS BASICS AREN'T NECESSARILY INDIGENOUS THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY. FOR INSTANCE, NEAPOLITAN FAYRE IS BASED LARGELY AROUND MEAT, FISH AND VEGETABLES AND GENEROUS DRIZZLES OF EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL, A FACT WE'RE LEARNING NOW THANKS TO BELLA MBRIANA. LOCATED AT THE BOTTOM OF BROUGHTON STREET, THE NEW, CONTEMPORARY DECORATED RESTAURANT IS THE VISION OF CHEF ROSARIO SARTORE WHO IS HERE TO SCHOOL EDINBURGH DINERS ON WHAT WE MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT SOUTHERN ITALIAN CUISINE. HE'S SO ADAMANT, IN FACT, ABOUT AUTHENTICITY THAT IT'S A REQUIREMENT FOR EVERY CHEF THERE TO BE ITALIAN.
Sartore's interpretation of the region is a hit with the fior de zucchine (£6.95): battered courgette flowers with oven-baked cherry tomatoes and a dip of pureed butternut squash plus ricotta cheese infused with creamed anchovies - both dips of which I would happily pair with almost anything but fried courgettes are indeed a delicious choice. My friend is astonished to have essentially ordered a large ball of cheese! Served inside a small bowl of cherry tomato juices, olive oil, garlic and oregano, the provola dei poveri (5.95)is soft like fresh mozzarella but with a lovely, mild smokey flavour. As the menu suggests, it's a 'wonderful way to eat this cheese!'
For mains, I go for the melanzane a scarpone (£10.95): an oven-baked aubergine shoe filled with an onion, cherry tomato and basil sauce and accompanied with marinated chopped lamb and salted cheese. It's simple but lovely, and much lighter than the typical heavy dish of pasta that can at times push your appetite over the edge! My friend's petto d' anatra (£12.95) is a heavenly dish of duck breast cooked with olive oil, mixed grapes, Gran Marnier and caramelised leeks, the sweeter components balancing smartly with the savory duck.
Bella Mbriana is very imaginative, and just as welcoming too, and it is apparent that they are as passionate about the land from which they came as they are about its food.
7-11 East London Street
0131 558 9581