Clearly a talented man, Stefano – of Shardana catering – effortlessly combines the hallmarks of fine dining. with the love and tradition of an old family recipe. In other words, every dish is utterly sublime
We open on what is these days a typical scene. We’re of course impeccably dressed, drinking champagne, and have absolutely no intention of leaving the house. Somewhere around the third glass we laugh about just how much our Saturday nights have changed.
Across town, Chef Stefano is putting the finishing touches on three beautiful, superbly presented courses. Even more impressive, he plans to deliver them himself. He too is adapting to the new normal.
Shardana, his company, is usually in the business of catering everything from gorgeous weddings and corporate events, to incredibly fancy dinner parties. With crowds temporarily a thing of the past, Stefano’s now looking at more intimate affairs.
Which is why, in between sips [ or more accurately, bottles ] of champagne, the Social Bitches have set yet another magnificent table. We’ve also decided on a soundtrack of Italian arias, which in this story prompts a slow-dissolve and a flashback …
Growing up in Sardinia, Stefano’s Saturdays were always spent watching his mother and grandmother cooking lunch for the family. An almost spiritual day, complete with fresh pasta and golden roast lamb, this is what made him fall in love with food.
A few decades later, he’s hand-delivering his own menu, which combines traditional Italian with a pinch of modern Scottish, and fresh local ingredients. We’re immediately struck by his warmth, and soon discover it’s also very much present in the food.
Even better, we don’t have to do a thing. All the cooking is already done, and Stefano’s even included a few cheeky hors d’oeuvres to get us started.
So without further ado, we refill our glasses, turn up the Italian opera, and enjoy a sneak peak of the genius to come. Charcoal biscuit, cured meat, pea paste and roe are amongst the many tastes.
But our favourite has to be the pastries with artichoke & creme fraiche. A dash of saltiness, and a wonderful tart flavour, these are seriously delicious.
Soon we’re moving on to our starters, which, rather impressively, have already been plated. So no chance even we can muck it up. The illusion of being in an intimate restaurant setting can now go unchallenged.
We begin with the Home cured salmon, infused with beetroot & herbs, and served with creme fraiche, lemon gel & apple puree. It’s gorgeous!
The salmon melts in the mouth, the addition of beetroot is inspired, and the contrasting flavours simply dazzle. We especially love the lemon gel, and the crunch of the long, thin strips of apple.
Next we dive into the Smoked duck breast, with pan fried asparagus & truffle oil. Again, this is superb. Sliced finely, incredibly tender, and so much flavour, we’re thinking this is one of our top two duck experiences ever.
What’s more, this lovely food is transporting to us to a really happy place. Sure, the fizz and the music definitely helps – Sento Nel Core by the way, an amazing aria – but Sefano’s layering of flavours is almost hypnotic.
The pop of yet another champagne cork also marks the arrival of the mains. These we have plated ourselves, so hopefully we’ve done them justice.
Isaac’s gone for the Corn fed chicken breast, served with potatoes fondant, savoy cabbage, and a pancetta sauce. His first reaction: how wonderfully, wonderfully moist!
Then after much chewing, ooohing & ahhhing, he asks what’s at the centre of this tantalising bird. For the second time I explain it’s a Wild mushroom & tarragon mousse.
His eyes light up, then roll back slightly. Clearly it’s delicious, as is the heavenly pancetta sauce. These wonderful contrasts demonstrate what we love about all of these dishes: lots of layers, very considered, and full of intense flavour.
But the real star has to be the Braised slow-cooked ox cheek with smoked mashed potatoes, root vegetables, and beef jus. Oh how we LOVE a tender cheek!
Faultlessly prepared, the meat just breaks away, the roasted zucchini and baby peppercorns are perfect, and the beef is honestly out of this world.
We are absolute fiends for a good sauce, and once the food is long, long gone I find myself pretty much licking the plate.
‘Can’t do this in a fancy restaurant, can you?’ I say, almost as if I’ve never been in one.
Isaac laughs, ‘Actually you do, all the time!!!’
Okay, that’s awkward.
But more importantly, what’s coming through in every dish is Stefano’s indisputable love for the craft. He’s also very generous when it comes to the portions. So while hunger is no way part of the narrative, we are desperate to continue.
Also, we’ve also somehow ended up with two deserts, oops!
The first is a gorgeous delicacy known as Cream bomboloni. Fluffy pillows of rich, fried pastry dough wrapped in sugar, and filled with a velvety Italian pastry cream. Somehow, they’re even more incredible than even that sentence makes them sound.
A quick dash of heat, and WOWSERS!!!
Despite now being ready to burst, we decide it would be a crime not to at least try the Homemade tiramisu before slipping gently into a food coma. There seems to be enough to satisfy the needs of four normal people, or perhaps two Social Bitches.
We love Stefenao’s delicate take on this classic dish. Dialing back the sweetness just a little, the sponge and rich cream are surprisingly light, and an intense espresso hit quite rightly takes centre-stage. Luscious.
We can also tell you it’s even more amazing the next day when polished off shortly after breakfast. Again, we say oops.
Having enjoyed an amazing meal, we waddle to the drawing room and toast our chef. By the way, not only does he deliver this wonderful food, he’s also available to private chef for as few as two people. Now there’s food for thought!
In a nutshell:
Dinner / Event Catering / Private Chef
Shardana Catering, Edinburgh
0044 7955 523 069