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We were squids in at Italian; Family-run Italian dishes up great value dinners.

Byline: TamCowan Award winning critic

So who says accountants are boring? My Edinburgh pal Donald, a retired number-cruncher, is currently doing a degree in archaeology, which in my book makes him the Indiana Jones of Colinton.

But there endeth any similarity with Harrison Ford.

I think he's a dead ringer for the old Name That Tune legend Tom O'Connor, although Donald admits to recently being mistaken for Countryfile presenter John Craven.

His big mate Brian - all six foot five inches of him - could probably only be confused with the fella on the sweetcorn tins.

It was Donald and Brian who suggested a trip to their local restaurant, Dantes, and I salute both chaps for a cracking recommendation.

This is a proper, family-run Italian restaurant (it's always reassuring when you know all the staff are pulling in the same direction) and I could only marvel at the effortless manner in which Fabio, Remo and Sandro were running the show.

On the Thursday night we visited, Dantes was going like a fair (I never do it myself, but I'd strongly advise pre-booking a table) and a sudden burst of applause from some of our fellow diners only added to the atmosphere.

Turns out a young guy up the back had just proposed to his girlfriend and I'm relieved to report it wasn't a typical Motherwell proposal.

That's when the bloke gets UP on one knee...

"It's all downhill from here," said Donald. As an archaeology student, I suppose he enjoys having a dig. (Sorry).

The smart, stylish decor at Dantes is very pleasing on the eye. Ditto the toilets (complete with very fragrant, throatchoking potpourri), which - upon closer inspection - easily passed what I make no apologies for calling The Jobby Test.

Yep. Clean as a whistle, I'd happily park my bum.

I also liked the nice, concise menu, as the ones they hand out in most Italian restaurants make War And Peace look like a pamphlet.

A two-course lunch at Dantes is PS8.95 and it's PS13.95 for the mid-week set menu - terrific value based on the quality of cooking we were about to enjoy.

From the a la carte line-up (expect to pay PS30/PS35 for the full works with wine) both Donald and Brian started with calamari.

Even though I hate the stuff with the same passion that kids detest Brussels sprouts, I must admit it looked great.

The size and shape of Ringos (remember them?), the crunchy calamari was piled high on the plate and it had been perfectly cooked as it wasn't remotely chewy.

That's what put me off calamari in the first place. The one and only time I tried it (at a hotel in Glasgow), it was like trying to eat a plate of elastic bands.

My king prawns were terrific. Lightly cooked in olive oil and white wine, the plump fishy nuggets really hit the spot and the garlic spinach sprinkled on top worked a treat.

I then savoured one of the specials - a chargrilled veal T-bone. A real hefty affair (I'd guess 16oz) I could have been sitting in a Las Vegas steakhouse.

Pink and moist in the middle with a lovely outer crust, it was amazing (and excellent value at PS19 considering we're all now conditioned to paying about 25 quid for a half-decent steak).

On the side, I'd ordered the perfect accompaniment - a tomato and onion salad (so fresh it glistened) that only required a wee splash of chilli oil and a good scrunch of black pepper.

Donald and Brian didn't fare too shabbily, either. They both plumped for spaghetti and, approximately five minutes later, let's just say neither plate posed too much of a challenge for the dishwasher.

The carbonara was "very nice, very creamy and very filling" while the Toscana (Tuscan sausage ragu with chilli and ricotta) was "rich and meaty with a fiery kick".

Dessert? Like any selfrespecting Italian joint, the ice cream at Dantes was exceptional, particularly the smooth, creamy vanilla.

No complaints from Donald about the generous slab of white chocolate cheesecake and Brian made light work of the cheeseboard, which would benefit from a better standard of oatcake.

According to Brian, the platter comprised "a blue one, a hard one and a Brie-like one". Hey, I'm not a cheese expert either!

Only one grumble on the night - why didn't Donald (a regular at Dantes) tell me about the pizzas? I clocked a 12-incher going to another table and, thanks to the thin, crispy base, it looked sensational.

Poor stuff from my archaeology pal, which means - get ready to groan, folks - I've now got a bone to pick with him...

tam.cowan@dailyrecord.co.uk DANTES Telephone: 0131 441 7427 Open: Tuesday to Sunday. Wheelchair access: No. Bill for three (with wine): PS94. Food: 9/10 - pretty much faultless.

Service: 5/5 - excellent. Decor: 5/5 - stylish interior, loved the snug booths. Toilets: 5/5 - spotless. Value: 4/5 - won't break the bank.

TOTAL 28/30 Tam's hot plate leaders ? THE UNICORN INN 30/30 15 Excise Street, Kincardine, Fife, FK10 4LN ? LA PARMIGIANA 29/30 447 Great Western Road, Glasgow, G12 8HH ? THE STATION HOTEL 29/30 92 Station Road, Shotts, ML7 4BJ ? LA FAMIGLIA 28/30 111 Cleveden Road, Glasgow, G12 0JU ? ELLISLAND HOUSE HOTEL 28/30 19 Racecourse Road, Ayr, KA7 2TD ? THE KAILYARD BY NICK NAIRN 28/30 Hilton Doubletree Dunblane Hydro, Perth Road, Dunblane, FK15 0HG ? THE ORANGERY 28/30 Seamill Hydro Hotel, 39 Ardrossan Road, West Kilbride, KA23 9ND ? THE VILLAGE CURRY HOUSE 28/30 129 Nelson Street, Glasgow, G5 8DZ ? PANEVINO 28/30 1075 Argyle Street, Glasgow, G3 8LZ ? THE WEE GUY'S 27/30 51 Cochrane Street, Glasgow, G1 1HL ? LOCH LEVEN SEAFOOD CAFE 27/30 Onich, Fort William, PH33 6SA PAPA-DOMS 27/30 95-97 New Road, Ayr, KA8 8DD ? CENTRAL MARKET 27/30 ? Bell Street, Glasgow, G1 1PA BAR SOBA 26/30 104 Hanover Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1DR ? MOTHER INDIA'S CAFE 26/30 ? 1355 Argyle Street, Glasgow, G3 7RU RHUBARB 26/30 122-124 Nithsdale Road, Pollokshields, Glasgow, G41 5RB ? TEMPUS 26/30 The George Hotel, 25 George Street, Edinburgh, EH2 2PB ? YEN 26/30 North Rotunda, 28 Tunnel Street, Glasgow, G3 8HL ? THE COCK & BULL 25/30 Ellon Road, Balmedie, Aberdeenshire, AB23 8XY.

DUSIT 25/30 49a Thistle Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2DY ? THE WIDE MOUTH FROG 25/30 Dalziel Park, 100 Hagen Drive, Motherwell, ML1 5RZ ? TWIST 25/30 121-123 West Blackhall Street, Greenock, PA15 1Y D ? THE ELPHINSTONE HOTEL 24/30 145 High Street, Biggar, ML12 6DL ? FLEMING'S BAR AND GRILL 24/30 222 Ayr Road, Newton Mearns, Glasgow, G77 6DR ? ZITTO 24/30 10 Quality Street, North Berwick, East Lothian, EH39 4HP ? THE REAL FOOD CAFE 23/30 Tyndrum, Perthshire, FK20 8RY ? DOBBIES GARDEN CENTRE 23/30 75 Kings Inch Drive, Glasgow, G51 4FB ? LA MESA 22/30 12 New Street, Paisley, PA1 1XY ? SHISH MAHAL 22/30 63a High Street, Musselburgh, EH21 7B2 ? THE BRASSERIE AT THE HYDRO 21/30 Crieff Hydro Hotel, Ferntower Road, Crieff, PH7 3LQ ? GRAZE 21/30 1-5 Crossroads, Dalry, Ayrshire, KA24 4JF ? SI! 20/30 18 Kilwinning Road, Irvine, KA12 8RU ? PORTO & FI ON THE MOUND 17/30 9 North Bank Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2LP ? THE KILDONAN HOTEL 17/30 Kildonan, Isle of Arran, KA27 8SE WALNUT RAISIN BREAD 115ml water 255g strong white flour olive oil 7g salt 10ml extra virgin 15ml cold-pressed oil walnut chopped 90g walnuts, 60g raisins 15g fresh yeast 15g honey HOW TO MAKE THE PERFECT Each week, one of Scotland's best chefs shows you how to make a classic dish. This week, Andrew Costley, executive chef at Costley & Costley, describes how to make walnut and raisin bread.

Method: ? Warm water and pour into a bowl. Add yeast and honey. Stir to dissolve yeast and set aside for 10 minutes.

Place flour, salt and oils in a mixer with a dough hook and mix briefly. Set mixer to medium, gradually add yeast mix.

When combined, knead dough in mixer for 5 minutes. Add the walnuts and raisins and knead for a minute. Cover with a cloth and leave in a warm place for 40 minutes or until doubled in volume.

Turn the dough out onto a floured WALNUT AND RAISIN BREAD surface, knock air out of it and knead for 2 minutes.

Shape into a log, score small slashes along the top, place onto a greased baking sheet. Cover with damp cloth and prove for an hour or until doubled in volume.

Uncover loaf, dust with flour and place in a preheated oven at 220C/ Gas Mark 7. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 180C/Gas 4 and bake for a further 12-15 minutes.

Test loaf by tapping the underside - it should sound hollow. Cool on a rack for one hour before slicing.

Costley& Costley Hotels are taking part in Taste Ayrshire 2013 until September 29. For details on Taste Ayrshire, see www.tasteayrshire.co.uk or for details on Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight, visit www.scottishfoodanddrinkfortnight.co.uk This article is in association with Taste Communications, Scotland's food champions.

DANTES 48-50 Bridge Road, Colinton, Edinburgh EH13 0LQ

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FIT FOR ROYALTY ... The king prawns were absolutely terrific
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 21, 2013
Words:1537
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