Wednesday, 27 August 2008


I wrote this review of a restaurant for an Edinburgh magazine the other day but I fear it will never see the light of day. I feel that it is my duty to share it in order to spare you the potential horror of eating at this establishment.

Och now I feel mean, it wasn't really that bad.... actually yes, yes it was.

Whether you loved or loathed Tinelli's on Easter Road, the fact remains it survived for almost 30 years until Giancarlo Tinelli retired earlier this year, no mean feat for an Edinburgh restaurant. My personal experience of this so-called institution was a dinner where the food was forgettable, but the smell of the restaurant has unfortunately lodged in my memory like the proverbial bad odour, what with that being exactly what it was.

So it was not without some trepidation that I ventured to its reincarnation 'Al Dente' to see if anything has changed. The exterior has been given a lick of paint and is now a proud regal purple and gold, the window displaying a menu with some regal prices to match. Pity the makeover didn't extend to the interior where there remains the general ambience - and smell - of an elderly man's living room. Notice I didn't say gentleman. Ok I concede, they've white washed the walls and tiled the floor.

After a friendly greeting, the owner seated us, gave us our menus and explained there were no scallops available as those at the fish market that morning weren't at all fresh enough. Good to know.

We chose Antipasti Italiano and Porcini Trifolati which promised to be porcini mushrooms tossed with garlic, parsley and white wine. In reality, it was a wobbling mass of gelatinous matter with no discernable taste of mushroom let alone garlic, white wine or parsley. A rhinotillexomaniac's dream. The Antipasti Italiano fared far better and was an impressive plateful of Neapolitan salami, Parma ham, Coppa and Bresaola complete with an enormous ball of soft milky mozzarella. This generous serving would be more suited as a sharing plate for 2-4 people but my dining partner did a valiant job of polishing it off all the same.

It is worth pointing out that I am deeply suspicious of restaurants which serve 'fresh' bread in a wicker basket alongside individual packets of mushy cheap butter. That is to say that I have yet to eat somewhere which does this and still serves good food. Say no more.

The main courses didn’t do much to disprove my theory. The owner assured me that my choice of Pescatrice allo Speck - Monkfish Fillet Wrapped in Italian Smoked Ham - was the piece de resistance at his wedding. The Speck ham surrounding the monkfish managed both to help and hinder this dish - while the fish itself was perfectly cooked and moist, it was far too salty. The accompanying vegetables were as bland as they were unimaginative - overcooked courgette and undercooked baby corn - and worst of all tasted of low fat spread. I'd have filed for divorce before the first dance.

A Grigliata Mista de Pesce - mixed grilled fish platter - was an assortment of the usual charred fishy suspects and shellfish. Most alarmingly, languishing amongst this was a great big scallop... Hmmmmm.

Insolata Mista was shredded baby gem, chopped industrial onion and potato flavoured tomatoes, all masquerading as 'Mixed Salad Leaves garnished with a Homemade Vinaigrette'. This chef appears to have confused homemade vinaigrette with shed loads of table salt.

A lesser person might have thrown in the towel but I am a 'to the death' sort. We decided to share a Tiramisu, partly because we were both quite full, and partly to halve the potential burden. Who knew it would actually be quite good? Perhaps because it's a fairly basic piece of Italian repertoire, or perhaps because there is no call for salt, but this Tiramisu was made well, with good ingredients and tasted exactly as it should – the Savoiardi biscuits soaked to just the right yielding consistency and enough coffee and amaretto to give it a tasty kick without overpowering. I could even almost excuse the random garnish of sliced peach which was promptly discarded after I discovered it tasted as though it had been rubbed with garlic. Almost.

Apparently if one exclaims 'Basta! at the end of a meal in Italy it means 'Enough!'. Never was a truer word said. At a grand total of £65.31 without drinks I can't say I'll be returning. If only they did Tiramisu to go.


Jacq Kelly said...

LMAO at the presence of the scallop. Genius.

Presumably it was left over from a previous occasion? Blee......

Manuel said...

nice! the magazine people need to publish it......pluss bad reviews are far more exciting than good ones....sad but true...

Eva said...

Really unfortunate, Tinelli's was nothing special but it was acceptable if you had nowhere else to go. Al Dente does not sound like it's up to the usual standards of restaurants in Edinburgh, especially at those prices. And I agree wholeheartedly with the fact that any restaurant that serves "'fresh' bread in a wicker basket alongside individual packets of mushy cheap butter" needs to be approached with caution.

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