ASK Italian now has well over 100 restaurants in the UK and we'd eaten in the Glasgow Springfield Quay (now since closed) and the Tudor-styled Shrewsbury branch but both of those occasions were years ago, so when we were invited along to try out their recently opened restaurant in Edinburgh's west-end we thought a visit and review was overdue and so we turned up on a busy weekday night and were taken to our table by a young and enthusiastic waitress.
We spied these on another table and so to get us started we ordered some Russian roulette in wine format - a mix of white and red varieties with a couple of roses too. Our favourite white was the Sauvignon Blanc with floral pineapple and tropical fruit aroma (not a surprise to us) and our favourite red was the Nero D'Avola which was a bit watery but not as strong as the others. The wine flights are a great idea but we have to say that the majority of the wines weren't great.
Starter #1 - a portion of fritto misti for one but you can also order a portion between two for £11.75. Under the batter we had whitebait, peppers, courgette and calamari - really small and crunchy coated calamari. The red peppers were the stand-out and were delicious, the whitebait good but the courgette was a bit floppy and the calamari too small. The chilli-topped mayo had a pleasant kick.
Starter #2 - Sweet tomatoes, creamy salty mozzarella and covered with grated Parmesan . A simple dish with rather strong basil which got thumbs up from both of us.
Onto the mains, and first up a rump steak pizza with the meat served medium on thin soft base with crisp edges and sweet tomatoey pasata. A fair bit of chopped chilli on top, so it was reasonably hot, with lots of rocket, providing ample peppery flavour and some mushroom too so overall a good amount of toppings which complimented each other. We opted for some black pepper and parmesan too. It was pretty tasty but the price of £13.25 is perhaps a bit steep, yes there is steak but it's still a pizza!
Some seafood pasta now - prawn and lobster in tomato sauce with chilli, croutons and fresh egg tagliatelle. Again we opted for some black pepper and parmesan and again it's a bit costly but then it does have lobster in it. It was perfectly competent but like a lot of pastas it can be a bit too samey when you're eating a lot of it.
For pudding - pizza served dessert-style. Warm Apple and sultana with cinnamon ice-cream which is always a winning combo for us and the pizza base was fine being served sweet.
Cioccolato supremo is the current summer special so it may not be on the menu much longer. Crunchy Italian Torcetti biscuits soaked in a shot of hot chocolate, topped with a scoop of vanilla gelato and finished with rich chocolate ganache and grated dark chocolate. A good mixture of texture, lots of chocolate and cooling ice-cream. We enjoyed this one too.
And we finished up with an Americano and Macchiato - and we also had a strong Aperol spritz (£5.95) in between courses.
A number of staff members came to check up on us while we were there and service was at a good pace so overall great service and a good standard of "chain restaurant" food with a few minor complaints, but compared to previous visits ASK seems to be moving in the right direction along with Pizza Express and Zizzi, who all seem to be pulling each other up (based on visits to each within the last year). Toilets are downstairs and were very new and clean when we visited.
+ All food competent and tasty
+ Smart clean restaurant and well placed for trams and buses
+ Very friendly helpful staff
+ Wine flights are a good idea
- but the wine on the wine flights isn't so good
- steak pizza and prawn and lobster pasta are a bit expensive
Mon - Sat: 10:00 to 23:00
Sun: 10:00 to 22:30
For more info and to book go here: http://www.askitalian.co.uk/restaurant/edinburgh
We were invited to ASK Italian and received a complimentary meal aside from the two wine flights which were each a £5 donation to charity.