Cosmopolitan, Italian-inspired style permeates throughout all aspects of Zucca, including the atmosphere, the service, and the menu.
Zucca is squeezed into a practically sized two-storey location just to the side of the Lyceum theatre, which means the restaurant can be very busy before show times. The theatre’s influence is felt in the decor: walls are covered with various posters of famous or popular Lyceum events in the past. Tables are well spaced apart and very comfortable, with pleasing candle holders and flowers decorating each tabletop.
The logo of Zucca is a bright orange pumpkin on a brown background; these warm, earthy tones are continued throughout the space. To contrast with the black and browns of the tables and chairs, coloured lighting is incorporated, highlighting the spacious ceiling and giving the space the airy feeling of a massive cathedral. Friendly, helpful staff are quick to greet you at the door, even before you’ve barely entered the building, and ensure all needs are immediately taken care of during your entire visit. The dining area is filled with laugher and clinking of wine glasses; it would be easy for a visitor to mistake this place for a chic cafe in Milan or a trendy restaurant in Rome.
Starters range from soups and salads to miniature versions of the entrees. The pear and dolcelatte salad with blue cheese (£5.95) is an elegant first course; alternatively, go with the thick and rich pumpkin soup (£5.50) with its hints of herbs and olive oil. Joining the starters are some wonderful and complimentary bread balls; these doughy delights go very well with the provided oil and vinegar dipping sauce.
The main dishes include a number of fresh seafood dishes; try the trout fillet (£12.95), which is prepared in minimalist fashion and joined by zucchini and salsa – it does not disappoint and offers a melange of flavours with a light tangy finish. Carnivores should head directly for the rib-eye steak (£15.95), mouth-watering in size and flavour. The meat is an excellent cut, with hardly any fat, both tender and moist. It comes with a well-portioned rocket salad, with a few slivers of pungent parmesan and a splash of olive oil. Trays of coarsely-ground pepper and salt, along with a tiny silver spoon, allow you to season dishes as you wish.
Additional sides are only £2.95. The roasted potatoes arrive looking a perfectly golden brown; crunchy on the outside, the delicious potato inside is soaked with butter and infused with rosemary, and a pinch of salt. The steamed broccoli is clean, simple, and tasty.
Dessert includes a calorific vanilla cheesecake with pears (£3.95) or a tiramisu (£3.95). The cheese board (£6.95) is big enough for two and includes grapes, celery, and other accompaniments. While the cheeses are phenomenal, unfortunately no explanation is provided on the background of each cheese.
The wine list is short and punchy, with some excellent choices for all palettes. Recommended is the Orvieto Classico Secco (£17.95/bottle), a crisp and juicy white wine with such a delightful flavour it can be compared with Champagne, just without the bubbles.
Coffee is up to the exacting Italian standard; an Americano with hot or cold milk is only £1.35. However, a more exciting finish to the meal would be to choose a potent Poli Grappa in one of three flavours: merlot, pear, or raspberry (£3.50).
The Last Word
Hidden next to the imposing Lyceum theatre, Zucca is one of the top Italian cafes in Edinburgh. Cordial and attentive service, stylish yet relaxed ambience, and a terrific menu across all courses ensure diners always leave satisfied.