You just cannot get the staff these days

Valvona and Crolla, Edinburgh

When I was at Oxford I remember being really impressed by Valvona and Crolla’s wine list. When we found out they had a highly thought-of cafe in Edinburgh I was terribly keen to go. The wine selection didn’t seem so thrilling, our waitress was hopeless, but the food was damned good.

When you walk in to Valvona and Crolla it is easy to be impressed by all the food they have in their delicatessen. With high-class ingredients knocking around like that you expect the food they serve to be really rather good. Get further back in the shop where they have wine and things are a little less pleasing, not such a wide selection. This disappointed me somewhat. Right at the very back they have the dining area, which is quite big and was pretty much empty when we visited.

Once we had scored a table Daniel and I left Leena whilst we went to choose some wines. They have a very reasonable policy of charging £6 corkage per bottle you buy in the shop at normal retail prices. A nice change not to be robbed when drinking wine in an Edinburgh restaurant. We chose a Valpolicella-type wine, Palazzo della Torre from Allegrini, which was perfectly acceptable. I was very pleased to see Delta Vineyards Pinot Noir from New Zealand knocking around, as I’d heard this was a complete bargain for a very drinkable Pinot Noir. We purchased a bottle of that as well and it was a good buy.

We retired back to the dining room and examined the menu. It looked good, and made Daniel and I feel so hungry we decided to order an one more course than Leena. Sadly, this really confused our waitress. She didn’t seem to understand that we wanted three courses (not including dessert) and asked if we wanted two of them served at the same time. She then tried to open our wines. She had been issued with a totally useless corkscrew which she handled with the ineptitude of someone who had never seen a bottle of wine before. I had to give her tips on using the corkscrew and she still managed to break the Palazzo della Torre cork in two. Well done the New Zealand wine industry for embracing screw-caps!

Our starters arrived reasonably quickly. Leena had a mozzarella caprese salad. It was great that the mozzarella and tomatoes were not at fridge temperature, and so they carried their flavours well. The buffalo mozzarella was really very good indeed. Daniel ordered a plate of Italian charcuterie, which also came with some tomatoes, roast peppers and aubergine, a small amount of the excellent mozzarella and a mountain of rocket. All the ingredients were very pleasing apart from the aubergine and rocket which were a bit dull. I had bresaola with shaved parmesan and rocket. I could have done without so much rocket, I don’t care for rabbit food (who does?), but the bresaola was quite delicious and there was plenty of quality parmesan on it. All good stuff.

Daniel and I moved on to our pasta course, except that our waitress had not taken Daniel’s order correctly and rather than getting pasta with smoked salmon he just got a plate of smoked salmon. She apologised profusely and said we would not be charged for the wrong dish. Daniel thought it was some of the best farmed salmon he had ever eaten. My pasta, penne with bacon and tomato sauce, was quite delicious and there was plenty of it. I horsed it down with great enjoyment.

By this time we had finished our wine and we decided to get a bottle of Allegrini Amarone Classico to have with our main courses. Our waitress looked so worried about opening another bottle she had to call for help. They really should issue their staff with decent corkscrews if they are serious about their wine. The Amarone itself was quite pleasing.

Daniel had a rib eye steak which seemed of good size and quality. It was very well prepared, cooked exactly as he had asked for. Leena and I chose a breaded veal escalope which in fact turned out to be two veal escalopes of quite reasonable size each. Perhaps the veal was a tiny bit tough, but they tasted delicious. Neither of us could finish our second escalope, but Daniel gladly helped out.

The food was good and we chose interesting wine, but it was a bit of a drag to be served by someone so hopeless. Perhaps they cannot get the skilled staff to work on Sundays. It was worth visiting, though, and I would gladly return. They have another cafe in the department store Jenner’s in a slightly more central location.

Contact details are on their website.

Tomorrow’s report from Edinburgh will be a review of Tailend restaurant and fish bar.