Hear the call of Ecco Vino and savour some simple, tasty fare

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IN a desperate bid to dodge the elbow jabbing and bag swinging of fellow Christmas shoppers, I found myself having an unexpectedly relaxed and enjoyable lunch at Ecco Vino in Cockburn Street.

I have frequently inhaled the delicious garlic haze that lingers outside and peered in the window at the bottles of wine that adorn the wall in endless shelves, but I had never before made it inside. The promise of mulled cider and brandy proved too much to resist on this occasion and we decided to make ourselves at home in the dark and snug surroundings.

The menu is fairly limited and in areas a little uninspiring, but the Italian flavours and seasoning do pack a punch and remind you that simplicity is not necessarily a negative. I was delighted to see that Ecco Vino offers a selection of Mellis cheese for a starter, main or dessert, but decided to inject a little nutrition to my festive diet and ordered the oven-roasted whole king prawns (£5.95). Great juicy prawns greeted me, soaked in garlic and lemon marinade, with a chunk of rustic bread to soak up the oil.

My fellow shopper opted for a spaghetti dish with a tomato, chilli and olive sauce with garlic oil (£7.95). Having chastised her for choosing something that she could make at home on a Tuesday evening, I had to eat my words as the sauce was far from ordinary. Some vegetables or meat would certainly have added more substance, but nevertheless the plate was licked clean. My risotto with serrano ham, spring onions and mushrooms (£9.65) was similarly comforting and filing – just what you need on a winter’s day.

Too full for a pudding, we opted for a hot chocolate which did an excellent job of preparing us for battle with the rest of the Christmas shops. At least we know exactly where to hide away when the sales start.

Ecco Vino, 19 Cockburn Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1BP, 0131-225 1441, www.eccovinoedinburgh.com