Since I have been in Edinburgh, I have visited Abida approx. 10 times. This obviously shows how much I like it and the fact that they never compromise on quality. The staff will always go out of their way for you, make you feel welcome and even remember you when you return. On New Year's Eve, they went out of their way to accommodate us, even though we hadn't booked.
The restaurant is a newcomer to Edinburgh and looks very modern inside, with lighting that changes colour throughout the evening, has exotic plants on the tables and the cutlery is quality Wedgwood. At first glance, I thought it was going to be one of those expensive restaurants with small portions, but I was wrong. The prices are 'normal' Edinburgh prices (a bit dearer than England, but good for a capital city), the portions are very substantial and the quality is second to none. I always start with the Popadoms as I know if I order a starter, I wouldn't have room for the main event and the dips come beautifully arranged. The yogurt dip isn't present but they have a more than satisfactory replacement-a tangy, spicy brown dip that at first tastes of brown sauce but once swallowed, has a fiery aftertaste. Yum!
For my main,my 3 favourite curries are the Madras, Pathia and Dansak. Each dish is full of the freshest veg imaginable and packed with a great blend of tastes. The curries here aren't oily like some restaurants (Eastern Pavilion, take note!), and are extremely filling. One rice is enough for 2 people. Predictably, I always order a Peshwari Naan and it never fails to impress.
In Abida, you can really take your time and spend a lovely, relaxed evening here without feeling rushed. I always unwind with one of their freshly brewed Italian coffees or a mango Lassi. For a decent curry in Edinburgh, Abida is always my first choice.
I have been looking forward to Abida all week as I haven't ate at my old Edinburgh favourite since February. It seems to have increased in popularity as now, booking is necessary when it never used to be. On arrival at the restaurant, I felt as if I was in a nightclub-it was packed to the brim, sweaty with a lack of fresh air, and noisy screams echoing off the walls. The 'party room' (a room separated by glass at the back) was occupied by a stag party and they were dancing on the seats, looking a bit like a chimps tea party.
I was hungry and knew what exactly I wanted- veg madras. The popadoms were up to their usual good standard, but I winced as I saw that there had been a price increase. All the dishes had gone incredibly expensive (hello, we're not out of recession yet!) and they had committed the sin of charging the same price for a vegetarian meal as a meat meal. Come on, anybody with an ounce of common sense knows that they cannot justify charging the same for a beef curry as for a veggie pea-and-onion packed curry! My veg madras was not up to its usual standard. The veg was sparse, the curry was starting to separate and there was only 1 sorry-looking potato in the whole curry.
I seriously hope this is just a glitch and they are not taking their loyal customers for granted. Maybe they have got a bit complacent after all the good reviews flying around on the net (like my old one) and the fact that it has actually become established in the Edinburgh restaurant scene. There are hotels nearby as well, hopefully they're not using this as an excuse to treat their customers like ignorant tourists.
We're in competitive times at the moment. The country is still recovering from recession, small businesses are struggling to stay afloat and us consumers are being more choosy about where we spend our money. Never has the phrase 'the customer is always right' been more appropriate (I prefer the German phrase 'der Kunde ist König' myself, meaning the customer is king!). However, some lucky people can afford to keep on splashing the cash and some rather greedy businesses are taking advantage of this and even increasing their prices. Yes, Abida. I am pointing the finger of blame at you.
Another reason why I am about to review Abida again is the fact that people are allowed to make mistakes and the culinary business is dynamic; peoples' tastes change and restaurants might have a staff/menu change. Just because a restaurant was fantastic in 2007 doesn't mean it's good today- they might have a new chef for example, or they may have got greedy and put the prices up. It's good to keep abreast of the latest restaurant trends as you never know, you might get a pleasant surprise in that 'abyssmal' greasy spoon round the corner! Or the 'renowned, award winning' restaurant may have given you gastroenteritis. Keep an open mind, I say.
Anyway, I went to Abida last night and was met with a frosty reception by a member of staff I had never seen before. After going through an airport-security style questioning about reservations, he got us a table in the half-empty restaurant. A humid evening, the air conditioning wasn't even turned on and I felt like I was in Dubai. Eventually, the penny dropped and he put the air con on. (it brought me back to the days when I was an air hostess and we used to turn the temperature of the plane down to flog more coffee- naughty! Don't tell anyone!) 10 min went by, and Mr Personality asked us if we wanted drinks. We ordered a bottle of bogstandard Highland Spring to share which came in at a whopping £4.50! Wow, does this water have a cure for the common cold or something?
We missed the starters and headed straight for the main- Veg Madras, Chicken Dhansak, 1 pilau rice, 1 peshwari naan. Along with the water you need a second mortgage for, this meal weighed in at a whopping £27.50. I don't know about you, but for a meal with no booze, no starters, no sides, half vegetarian, this is a pure rip off. Even the most boring, basic black coffee was £2.25. Needless to say, the meal was fantastic, but rice and vegetables are basics and do not justify a price tag of nearly 30 quid in the middle of a recession. Mr Personality and his staff did not once ask us if we enjoyed the meal or if we wanted any more drinks/desserts/sides etc and after a 15 min wait for the bill, we ended up chasing it up ourselves.
Abida sees its customers as just a herd of cash cows lining up to have their bank balances slaughtered. Customers are not valued here anymore, the staff lack basic manners and it seems that takeaways are its only saving grace. Even the menu in the window is misleading as it is not the complete menu with all the prices. It's a shame because back in 2009, this was such a lovely place with well mannered staff who got to know their customers. The food here is fantastic but £3.50 for a portion of rice is taking the mickey. The whole ambience of the restaurant has got a bit uppity- it thinks it is on George Street but can obviously not afford their rents and have decided to bring pretentiousness into suburbia.
Sorry, Abida. I've given you a second and a third chance. You are now just another Tippoo Sahib but with quality food. Customers should not get treated like s**t by you lot, we are your bread and butter after all. I have had better service in a greasy spoon in Dalry.