If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know one thing: aside from Scotland (of course) we love Italy. It’s the one place that we’ve consistently saved enough pennies to return to, where the food is so simple yet so good and where the capital is crammed with history.
So — even when we’re in Scotland — any excuse to remember those heady, gelato-filled days is seized without hesitation. That’s how, on a torrential Tuesday, I finished work three hours early just for Jamie’s.
We arrived at Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms at the tail end of the 12 – 6 lunch session. Having never explored much of the New Town, we were expecting the standard Italian restaurant experience in a beige, modern building with full length windows. How wrong we were.
We entered the foyer and were literally sighing wow as we looked through the bright doors towards the restaurant. Jamie’s Italian is set within the former supper hall of the Assembly Rooms. An eatery that’s also got history? So up my street! The Assembly Rooms were founded in the 1780s as a kind of private members’ club, with the supper hall being completed in 1906. My photos don’t dream of doing the place justice: glittering chandeliers, velvet chairs and a central marble bar all made this place metaphorically stink of opulence.
In fact, it actually smells of really good food. As we consulted the Super Lunch menu — a concise but comprehensive three-courser for just £14.95 — we chatted to our enthusiastic waiter. He was from Sicily, and spoke to us at length about wine and good food… Always a promising sign when there’s an actual Italian working in an Italian restaurant! We pointed at the menu for prosecco and then our Super Lunch began.
Now the name Super Lunch really should have given us a clue, right? It was one of those meals where the flavours just pop on your tastebuds and you actually think that the stuff you’ve been eating at home for months was a really poor excuse for food (sorry, B).
For our first course, we plumped for the truffle tagliatelle and the fritto mixto. The pasta was rich and buttery with shavings of black truffle, but the real knockout was the fried fish. I could have just grabbed a bowl of that and ran. Crispy, slightly spiced with fennel and with a punchy lemon and garlic aioli on the side, it took me back to the street food we’d had in Venice. Honestly, it was that good.
The main course offerings were again really comprehensive for a smaller menu and had a homely feel: classic steak, pasta variations and a chunky chicken brioche. For someone who’s a pretty fussy eater, I thought it covered all the bases. I opted for the superfood salad stuffed with quinoa, kale and broccoli. It was Deliciously Ella healthy, surprisingly filling and had lovely little shots of flavour from the beets and pomegranate. Across the table, B was chowing down on the chargrilled steak, barely pausing to speak. I gave it a taste and it was actually really tasty (and I don’t eat red meat!)
By this point, we were 1.5 proseccos in and were thoroughly enjoying the food and the beautiful setting. We had left rainy, consumer-fuelled Princes Street behind and had found a little time-travelled food haven. We couldn’t help imagining renting the whole venue out for some elaborate party, monopolising the kitchen and getting fritto mixto on tap. What dreams are made of, right?!
Dessert was classic: pavlova, brownie, polenta cake or ice cream. Like the rest of the Super Lunch menu — and Italian food in general! — it was unfussy fare with fresh flavours and fab presentation. A cluster of caramelised popcorn was the cherry on top to my warm brownie and ice cream; B’s pavlova was sprinkled with crumble and lay on a thick mascarpone base. And those berries… One thing to try this weekend? Soak some summer fruits in limoncello. Freaking awesome.
So from that fried fish and melting chocolate brownie to the unique, memorable setting — which really lifted our experience up a notch — we were completely sold. People of Edinburgh, the next time it’s pissing with rain on Princes Street and you’re dragging yourself dejectedly around the shops, here’s a tip. Go hide in the Assembly Rooms with Jamie.
Where’s your favourite Italian in Edinburgh?
Thank you to Jamie’s Italian for inviting B & I along to try the Super Lunch Menu.