Radicibus review: 'Genius pasta' and tagliatelle that is 'utter perfection'
Another damp and dreich Edinburgh summer evening had increased our need for comfort food, writes Kayt Turner.
Mara and Giovanni opened their basement restaurant, now called Radicibus, in 2017. It’s a small, delightfully intimate space. Behind a gate and downstairs, you immediately feel that you have stumbled on a hidden gem.
It is also, unfortunately, typical of the kind of establishment that could not survive under social distancing guidelines. Even under new rules, they could fit in two, possibly three tables, clearly not nearly enough to sustain a business.
But Radicibus had built up quite a head of steam with a regular and loyal clientele before everything hit the buffers. Luckily, those devoted customers are still keen to sample Mara’s genius with freshly made pasta and so are keeping them busy with take out orders.
Given that it is only the two of them prepping, cooking and then delivering all these meals, it makes sense that their menu has been pared back. Aside from their well-loved sharing plates, they have limited themselves to a choice of three starters, four main dishes and two desserts.
Which is all well and good – but not when you want everything that’s on that small, but perfectly formed, menu. We went for the calamari (£7.5 – don’t get me started again on the current fad for dispensing with the ‘0’...).
Nothing beats the taste of hot, fresh and crispy calamari arriving almost direct from the fryer. And this did suffer a little in the delay – but not by much – it was still a light and beautiful dish.
Our other starter was the bruschetta di polenta (£7.5) which was a sizeable portion of crispy polenta topped with porcini mushrooms and quail eggs. This was a really interesting twist on a truly ancient classic. The polenta worked fantastically well as a bread substitute, toasting up effectively whilst absorbing some oil as intended. The wild mushrooms, which had a little rocket through, were wonderfully complemented by the still soft quails eggs.
Another damp and dreich Edinburgh summer evening had increased our need for comfort food, so we went for the gnocchi guanciale e asparagi (£12) – gnocchi, guanciale, pecorino and asparagus. This lived up to my expectations, although it too suffered a little in not being hot from the pass, making the wonderfully rich sauce seem a little gloopy.
The substitution of the stronger guanciale for the ubiquitous pancetta was an inspiration which resulted in an overall more rounded dish and a nice counterpoint to the fresh asparagus.
Nothing says comfort quite like pasta and sausage and the tagliatelle porcini e salsiccia (£12) was utter perfection. Beetroot tagliatelle, red wine and rosemary sausage, and porcini mushrooms created a stick to the ribs, rich and tasty pasta dish.
We decided to go mad and ordered both side dishes. Insalata di lenticchie (£4.5) was stir-fried beluga lentils, pumpkin seeds and purée, and tender stem broccoli while melanzane grigliate (£4.5) consisted of grilled aubergines, garlic, parsley, hazelnuts, Parmesan and rocket. Neither was an obvious match to our mains but sounded too good to miss. The lentils were slightly on the underdone side, but I prefer them that way, so I was delighted. But, oh – the aubergine. Mr Turner got to this first and went silent when he took his first forkful. One of his tells, I’m afraid (he’s pretty rubbish at poker). Sensing magic, I managed to wrest the serving dish from him.
All I can say is he wasn’t wrong. The aubergines still had some bite and the sharpness of the garlic, Parmesan and rocket meant that it was simply the most perfectly balanced dish.
Sadly, there was no cheese on offer for Mr Turner – which meant that we ordered the two desserts on offer tiramisu (£4.5) and the crostata alla panna cotta (£4.5), a lemony shortcrust tart filled with pistachio panna cotta and lemon curd.
These were both delicious – and obviously made in the kitchen (unlike so many Italian restaurants that rely on bought-in desserts.) Tiramisu is a dessert I usually avoid – because it’s usually commercially made, but this was a wonderfully rich, yet light, dessert that helped round off our meal perfectly.
They only deliver between 8pm-9:30pm – but you can collect from the restaurant before then. You book a time to pick up when you order. Much like a ‘normal’ evening’s service, it’s obviously in the restaurant’s interests to pace their workload for the evening, so if you book early, you get the slot you want. If not, you get the slot you’re given – which seems fair.
Mara’s genius with pasta is evident, even if some of the dishes suffered slightly from the delay from kitchen to plate. But on a dreich Edinburgh evening, they still managed to successfully bring a taste of the summer taverna to us.
Radicibus2 Deanhaugh StreetEdinburghTel: 0131 285 8608www.radicibus.co.uk
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