Invited to dine at the home of Chef Luisa, this is the story of one supper club, two social bitches, and nine incredible courses. Traditional Sardinian fare that combines fresh local produce with simple ingredients to create bold, magnificent tastes.
Long before travel seemed such a perilous proposition, we found ourselves on a rooftop terrace in Seville. The home of a local chef who made the most of the views, by transforming his apartment into a pop-up restaurant.
“What a fabulous idea,” we remarked, in between generous sips of cava.
As the sun slowly set, we went on to agree this was something we’d like to see more of, especially in Edinburgh.
Which brings us to the fabulous Chef Luisa. Born in Sardinia, taught to cook by her mother, and she’s worked in some of the best eateries in Spain, Malta and Britain.
Luisa’s dream is opening a restaurant here in Edinburgh, just six or so tables, but endless courses. The first step on this journey is hosting lovers of good food in her own home, and introducing them to the dazzling tastes of Sardinia.
This is where the Social Bitches come in, flawlessly attired, and straining to carry our many wine bottles.
Soon we’re throwing back champagne, and scoffing the canapés. A little bruschetta, a little crostini with anchovy & red peppers, and a lot of: THIS is delicious Luisa!
We’re also loving the pane carasau – a Sardinian flatbread that’s crisp and salty. Add a dash of live oil, made by Luisa’s mum, and we have our latest carb addiction.
One – Coda di Rospo alla Catalana
We begin with a wonderfully refreshing monkfish salad, which gives us the feeling of sitting by the sea, basking in the sun, and enjoying a big old glass of vino.
With our tastebuds tingling, we try to guess its ingredients. Lemon? Lime, surely? And perhaps a dash of … No, none of the above. The key to Sardinian cuisine is simplicity.
Onion soaked in vinegar and salt for six hours, then rinsed. This, with a little tomato, is all it takes to create this magnificent taste. Wowsers!
Two – Parmigiana di Pesce
Next we’re inhaling the wonderful smell of fresh mint, and contemplating delicate layers of roasted eggplant, salmon and buffalo mozzarella, surrounded by mint pesto and flakes of almond.
Again, so simple, but utterly divine. We also love how the aroma of mint hangs in the air for every mouthwatering bite.
Three – Gamberi Lardellati
With the bubbles now drained, we move on to a little white wine, as Luisa proudly presents the next decadent dish. Prawns wrapped in pancetta, and accompanied by a courgette soufflé.
Cue a spontaneous round of applause. This looks and smells amazing, but somehow tastes even better. Light, fluffy, perfectly cooked, and the dash of saltiness brought by the pancetta makes this dish an absolute winner.
Four – Polpo alla Diavola
Then comes the delicacy that really divides people – Octopus! While it tastes great, it can be a little chewy, and those suckers, frankly, are slightly disturbing.
Fortunately we’re in good hands, Luisa’s inspired approach is to slow-cook in a spicy tomato sauce. Suddenly, this misunderstood delicacy is unbelievably tender.
And then there’s the gorgeous sauce! Extremely rich, and a little sweet, it compels us – via soft bread, tongues, and even fingers – to make sure not a single drop remains. The secret of our love, perhaps, it contains a shedload of white wine.
Five – Melanzane alla Sassarese
While “palette-cleanser” is a description Isaac can easily apply to everything from a single scoop of sorbet, to a packet of lard, our next dish most definitely fits the bill.
Slow roasted eggplant, with a little olive oil, tomato and rocket pesto.
With a rich roast flavour and just a hint of sweetness, it’s yet another example of a simple dish that really hits the spot.
Six – Calamari Fritti
The arrival of our old favourite, calamari – in a mini-fish & chip basket – brings instant euphoria. But hang on, this is something new, even greater than its usual form.
Rather than a heavy, or oily batter, Luisa lightly dusts with semolina. Its chalk-like finish makes even tempura seem heavy handed. You can really taste the squid, and there’s no need for our usual tens tons of aioli, a quick squeeze of lemon and it’s perfect.
But hang on, again, there’s even more to this fabulous sixth course. It also comes with sliced courgette and juicy sweet tomatoes, coated in breadcrumbs and deep-fried.
Seven – Merluzzo a Scabecciu
While we’re still waxing lyrical about the joys of deep-fry, Luisa delivers yet another surprising dish: beautifully fresh cod, served with a heavenly tomato & garlic sauce.
It’s an unusual combination we grant you, but the sweetness of the cod makes this wonderful sauce the perfect compliment.
We’re also started to wonder – as we ooh and ohh over each delicious bite – how Luisa would feel about us moving in? Through of course, she’ll have to do all of the cooking.
Eight – Fregola Cozze e Funghi
Meantime, the Sautéed Scottish mussels & mushrooms desperately require our attention. It’s also our introduction to fregola, the Sardinian equivalent – though far superior – of cous cous.
So superior in fact, we don’t actually like cous cous [ it’s messy & annoying ] but we LOVE this. Fregola is moist and full of flavour, as are these gorgeous mussels.
Again we try to figure out the other ingredients. It’s creamy, but there’s no cream. It’s wonderfully buttery, but there’s no butter. White wine? Umm, no, just in our glasses.
Suffice to say, even after eight courses, Luisa is still surprising and delighting our tastebuds.
Nine – Millesfoglie di Carasau
But sadly, our banquet must eventually come to an end. Though on the plus-side, there’s a still a dessert wine begging to be opened, and the perfect finale.
A sweet version of the flatbread we so enjoyed earlier, accompanied by a light custard and summer fruits. Blackberries, strawberries, and blueberries, plus a very welcome sprig of mint.
Sweet, but not overwhelmingly so, it beautifully rounds off a spectacular meal, without pushing us over the edge.
Genuinely we loved every bite, and are thrilled to discover so many dishes and flavours we haven’t experienced before.
But even more mind blowing is the price, just £38 per person. We are speechless! Except to say, you MUST experience Chef Luisa’s wonderful food, and soon!
Reviewed August 2020
Chef Luisa’s Sardinian Supper Club
Dine in / Takeaway
9 Courses / £38 per person