REVIEW: Edinburgh’s revamped Italian, Divino Enoteca

Edinburgh’s Divino Enoteca is revered for contemporary Italian cuisine. Scottish Field’s Rosie Morton scopes out the wine bar and restaurant after its £100,000 refurb… 

FOR me, dinner in Edinburgh’s Old Town comes with a certain expectation.

Give me an eaterie that is nestled in a forgotten, cobbled side street. A venue with exposed brick walls that is alive with character. A place where the fare is hearty, the mood is romantic, and the atmosphere is rivalled only by the majesty of its historic surroundings.

Happily, the place I was scoping out this time seemed to tick all of those boxes. Divino Enoteca, an award-winning wine bar and restaurant that is part of the city’s iconic Vittoria Group, is revered for its contemporary Italian cuisine, romantic feel, and quirky historic location. It sits on Auld Reekie’s Merchant Street, and is tucked in the basement of the group’s Vittoria on the Bridge restaurant. (This means that it can be accessed via George IV Bridge if, like me, you blindly follow Google Maps and then worry you need to abseil to your destination)…

Divino Enoteca underwent an extensive £100,000 refurbishment at the tale end of last year, so my colleague Morag Bootland and I were eager to see what the fuss was all about.

Award-winning Edinburgh wine bar and restaurant, Divino Enoteca has been given a revamp. [Credit: Sabrina Gali]


What is it?

Divino Enoteca is a third-generation Italian family restaurant which boasts an archetypal wine cellar. But don’t for a second think that this is a place where dough balls and overloaded calzones reign supreme. This is an elegant fine dining venue which seeks to serve an authentic taste of Italy.

The menu has been specially developed by head chef, Andrea Calistro who uses local produce to ‘achieve a true evocation of Italian flavours’. Think generous portions, precise presentation, and classic ingredient combos that you might find on Nonna’s table.

Head chef, Andrea Calistro has created menus that are an authentic taste of Italy. [Credit: Sabrina Gali]


What’s the vibe? 

As you walk down into the bowels of this Old Town building, you know it’s going to be a unique experience. The first thing you see is the reception desk, behind which is the kitchen. Far from the usual clamour you hear in busy, working kitchens, Divino Enoteca’s chefs float about the place with a quiet, reassuring confidence.

Low lighting and exposed brick walls lead the way into the bar area, where you can sit for an aperitif. (Neither I, nor Morag could choose from the extensive list of cocktails available, so they offered to whip one up for us that was tailored specifically to our own tastes. If you’re into sweet, citrusy drinks, ask for a cocktail with Whitley Neill’s blood orange gin. You won’t regret it).

Restaurant manager, James Clark then gave us a warm welcome and led us through the rest of the restaurant which is lighter and brighter than it once was, thanks to new furnishings which are upholstered in rich, brightly coloured patterns. The historic feel of the building has be retained though, and owing to the wine bottles that line every inch of the walls, it is still completely evident what Divino Enoteca’s USP is…

The wine!

Arguably the star of the show is Divino Enoteca’s ‘enomatic’ self-serve wine dispenser machine which allows you to have wine by the glass.

Usually, when handed a wine list as long as my arm, I’m guilty of sticking to what I know. This new machine – which enables bottles of wine to be opened and protected from oxidation, ensuring an unspoiled glass of wine – opens up exciting new possibilities.

Morag ordered a glass of Nero di Troia, a sumptuous red with heady notes of black and red fruits, with a touch of vanilla. I took the advice of our server and opted for a wine on their specials list, Albariño, which is fresh with hints of citrus. Wine can be ordered in three different sizes: 175ml; 125ml; or 25ml.

The ‘enomatic’ wine machine allows wine to be served by the glass. [Credit: Sabrina Gali]

What about the food?

In contrast to Divino’s drinks list, the food menu is quite concise. (As far as we are concerned, this is no bad thing, considering it usually takes days to sift through all the options in other Italian joints around the city).

None of the starters really tickled our fancy, so we went headlong into mains. Morag’s was first to arrive. She chose a decadent rib-eye steak from the specials menu, which was served with a garlic hasselback potato, tomatoes and a peppercorn sauce. Looking enviously across the table, I could see it was cooked to perfection – beautifully pink, with juices oozing. The hasselback was a case of style over substance, but she says that the sauce was rich and comforting, and the tomatoes added a real punch of acidity.

Steak with garlic hasselback potato, tomatoes and peppercorn sauce.

My dish, Rigatoni alla Norcina with Tuscan sausage, (£18) was equally impressive. The rigatoni was beautifully al dente, and the porcini mushroom cream that it was served in was thick and unctuous. I don’t do things in half measures, so would have liked a little more protein on the plate, but that didn’t stop me from devouring every last morsel of carb-loaded goodness.

Your rigatoni is served…

The puddings certainly piqued our interest too. Morag’s Tortino Fondente con Gelato al Cocco (£9) – a dark chocolate fondant with Belgian chocolate sauce and coconut ice cream – was a spectacular end to the night’s indulgence. Indeed, Morag’s face lit up when the generous flood of rich, dark chocolate oozed from the centre of her pudding. ‘This is pretty much the perfect pud,’ she said, in between appreciative nods of the head. If that’s not high praise, I’m not sure what is…

Dark chocolate fondant with coconut ice cream.

To say nothing of its incredible flavour (the sharp cassis balanced really nicely with the sweet vanilla), my kir pannacotta with a cassis and Trebbiano wine sauce (£9) was a joy to behold. The deep berry-coloured river was a wonderful contrast to the cream-coloured pud in the centre of the plate.

The verdict? 

The service at Divino Enoteca was faultless. It wasn’t at all intrusive, but was welcoming, helpful and friendly throughout. Granted, some of the mains are pretty steep (the beef fillet with Merlot red wine jus is £38) but not outlandishly so for the quality of the fare on offer. This is a place that has all the makings of an idyllic, romantic dinner.

Divino Enoteca will be hosting regional food nights, wine tastings and live music nights each month. To find out more, please visit their website.

5 Merchant St., Edinburgh, EH1 2DQ
Tel: 0131 225 1770
Opening hours: Wed-Sun, 5-10pm.

Pannacotta with cassis and Trebbiano wine sauce.