Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Kebabish, Edinburgh- a tale of two visits

Visit 1- May 2010

Since living in Edinburgh, I have experienced nothing but disappointment with the city's Indian restaurants. Back in England, I was spoiled for choice but here, they were either too touristy, too expensive, too bland, too rude or were quite simply, a lost cause. After my last disappointing visit to my former favourite Abida, I challenged myself to find a decent Indian restaurant that ticks all the boxes.

I discovered Kebabish, a name already familiar to me from my Manchester curry crawls, had opened a new restaurant close to my place and after scouring the menu, I decided to give it a go. I had nothing to lose, I still needed to find a good Indian in this city.

After such a great meal, I can safely say I have found 'my' Indian!

Kebabish is extremely modern inside, no sticky carpets and dodgy wallpaper here! The restaurant focuses on its open-plan kitchen, so you can watch your meal being prepared with much excitement, an artwork in progress if you will. After a warm welcome by the staff, I approach the menu like some people would approach a gossip mag, devouring every word. Wow- old favourites and new surprises. This time, I vowed to have a Kulfi so passed on a starter, heading straight for the main event, a vegetable pathia. I am becoming increasingly bored with Peshwari, so instead I opted for the lighter chapati and pilau rice. The smells emanating from the kitchen were promising, a party of cardamon, cumin and other exotic Eastern spices. My Pathia arrived and was absoultely stunning; a quality I haven't experienced since my old-school Liverpudlian curry crawls. The curry was of supreme quality and consisted of beautiful chunky potatoes, peppers and wedges of carrot (none of my old enemies the frozen veg in sight- I breathed a sigh of relief!). The chapati made a welcome change from the hard-to-digest peshwari and was a great accompaniment to mop up the remainders of the Pathia. My mum had a veg Jalfrezi which I cheekily helped myself to, this was chunky, peppery and not watery like some of the past jalfrezis.

Cleverly, I made room for dessert and treated myself to mango kulfi and an Americano coffee. The Kulfi was huge- two big scoops of velvety mango heaven and the coffee was of a high standard, none of this instant rubbish that some Indian restaurants torture their customers with.

Visit 2- August 2010

It was my birthday this week and as I have friends and family scattered everywhere (a legacy of my former jetset life), my first celebration took place this week in Kebabish with my ex-colleagues. I spoke highly of Kebabish, its great portions, affordable prices and smily staff won a place in my heart. However, I would come to eat my words.

There had been a slight staff change since my last visit and a new attitude reminiscent of Ryanair when it came to sales technique. We were asked 4 times if we wanted a Mocktail, a non-alcoholic cocktail. Being a teetotal, I ordered one and when I saw it winging its way to me, I regretted it. Served in a doll-size tumbler, the cocktail consisted of two Rubicon drinks mixed together and was charged 3.50 for the pleasure. No brollies, no glitz or glamour on this wee chappy. It was like being promised Emirates and getting Easyjet. My friends learnt from my mistake though so thankfully, no further Mocktail profits were made that night and tap water was the name of the game.

Here is the 'service' that ensued.

'No thanks'
'Would you like popadoms?'
'How about popadoms and pickle?'

So, after that hard sell experience (my God, am I in Tenerife getting flogged a time share?), we settled down to or mains, which admittedly were delicious. But as soon as the plates were cleared, a similar hard sell routine ensued. Simply replace the word 'popadoms' with 'dessert,mocktails,coffee'.

When the table was cleared, the rude young lady who cleared it stood those darned mocktail menus up on the table, thus blocking our view of each other. Hello, we are on a night out and want to have a conversation, learn some basic etiquette and leave the menus flat.Oh sorry, Miss Kebabish, you are not interested in customer service, are you? Just hard sell, profit and those damned mocktails with their hefty profit margin. Readers, listen up. Rubicon costs 50p a can. The mocktail glasses are approx 250 ml, a can 330 ml. So roughly, the mocktail costs 30p, but remember, Kebabish will buy in bulk which means the mocktail might actually cost 10p. You do the maths. I have sure done mine and will be avoiding Kebabish at all costs.

Kebabish Original Edinburgh on Urbanspoon

Monday, 30 August 2010

Turkish Kitchen, Edinburgh

Turkish Delight!

As I have mentioned many times in the blog, I spent 7 years living in Germany and as many discerning Germany fans know, the country has a high population of Turks who have brought their delicious cuisine with them. Similar to the abundance of the UK's Chinese and Indian eateries, Germany, especially Berlin, has seen an onslaught of Turkish restaurants, grills and Simitci (traditional bakeries). The smells, sights and sounds whisk German foodies off on an edible magic carpet of tasty treats- but what about UK foodies? Yes, I'm afraid to say it, us Brits are missing out on one of the most versatile, nutritious cuisines and some of the naughtiest, stickiest, diet-busting desserts! Slowly but surely though, the Brits are looking past the Döner Kebab and discovering what else the Turkish dinner table offers, and gradually, more restaurants are popping up (sometimes under the umbrella of 'Mediterranean Cuisine'). Tucked away in Edinburgh's Rose Street, I decided to sample Turkish Kitchen thanks to the recommendation of a friend (who had also spent a lot of time in Deutschland).

I glanced at the menu and although the prices were a million miles away from Berlin's offerings, the smells and descriptions were identical. The business lunch seemed like the best option at only £6.95 but to my dismay, there were no veggie options on the business menu. However, the friendly chef adapted it for my herbivorous tastes. To start, I had spinach and feta börek (Filo parcels) on a bed of crisp salad garnished with red cabbage. The combination of warm and cold whisked me off to a sunny beach on Turkey's Riviera! I waited with anticipation for my main course.

The main course hit the spot. Nutritious, filling, wholesome, the aubergine casserole topped with cheese was a hit. The plump aubergines burst with flavour in my mouth and was served with my favourite, tomato flavoured 'pilav' rice. I first sampled this speciality back in 1994 on a family holiday in Alanya (South Turkey). Back then, most people went to Spain on their hols and I was intrigued by this 'new' country and its exotic cuisine. Maybe it was that holiday when I first discovered my passion for the cuisines of other cultures; the different ways to prepare a vegetable, the fact that other countries do not use vinegar for chips but for salad, the way other cultures celebrate their food and not see it as a microwaveable chore. Sorry for strolling down memory lane; this rice just brought back some fond childhood memories.

After the stroll down memory lane thanks to the rice, it was time for dessert. The sweet treat on offer was Kemalpasa, but due to its sticky, sweet consistency, I gave it a miss this time and settled for a coffee. Regrettably, the coffee wasn't of the potent variety that I rave on, but it was a pleasant end to a pleasant meal.

Whether you want to revisit your holiday, have some summery food or have a chilled day off work with the papers and a business lunch, this is the place for you.

Afiyet olsun! (bon appetit in Turkish!)

Turkish Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 22 August 2010

No.1 Sushi, Edinburgh

Was that it? I'm still hungry!

I was a woman on a mission on Sunday, a mission for a tasty, exotic wholesome lunch! My first attempt was the beautiful South Indian Mezbaan, alas it was closed. Big Fat Greek Kitchen was my second choice but it looked ominously empty. Third choice was my favourite hot and sour soup in the whole wide world, the Panda Inn, but that was closed too. So I decided to push the boundaries, step outside my comfort zone and try Japanese at No 1 Sushi, Edinburgh. Traditionally, Sushi bars aren't the best friends of veggies as the menu reads like the cast list of Finding Nemo. Surely they offer some veggie specialities too?

I entered No.1 and the interior was basic yet funky, straight out of a cool film like Lost in Translation. (Looking onto the street and witnessing neds, scruffy students and charity shops, it was far from Hollywood though.) Perusing the menu, the prices seemed rather high but hopefully the quality and quantity of the food justified this. The staff were distant; not overtly friendly but not rude either. It is the type of place where you could while away the afternoon and not be disturbed; that is if you are fortunate enough NOT to be seated by braying Hooray Henrys which I was...oh yah!

I ordered a Mix Veg Udon Noodle dish, it came in the form of a huge soup bowl and I felt like Alice in Wonderland after she ate the shrinking biscuit! It was beautifully presented, a combination of carrot, squash, broccoli, aubergine and spring onion, floating on a bed of fat noodles. However, as I began to eat, I noticed the main ingredient of the soup was its bland stock; extremely watery but with no pleasant kick like a Chinese soup. Although it was fresh and cleansing, it was extremely bland, the type of stuff you would probably eat on a crash diet.

Needless to say, I was starving after and made a dash to Loopy Lorna's to fill up on sponge cake! No.1 caters more for the fish loving market and veggies will feel short changed. So, if you're a strict veggie like me, cross this one off your list, but send your carnivorous colleagues!

Number 1 Sushi on Urbanspoon

Chocolate Tree, Morningside, Edinburgh

Great chocolate, shame about the staff!

Have you seen the film Chocolat? I love that film, beautiful creations out of chocolate which change peoples' lives. I was hoping to get such a fulfilling experience out of the Chocolate Tree, an enticing gateway to chocolate heaven. It was a muggy Saturday, the air oppressive and I needed something to perk me up. As they are self proclaimed specialists in choc, I decided to head to the CT for a 'chocolat chaud' as, along with many other culinary feats, the British take on hot choc fails miserably. Either it tastes 'instant' or full of cream. I like my hot chocolate like I like my men; dark, rich, full bodied and well presented! None of this squirty cream malarkey what many Great Britons are fond of, I don't know why people pay through the nose to drink something that tastes like a concoction made by a harassed mum to help her toddler sleep. Chocolat is all about richness, a revitalising experience.

Upon entering the CT, it seemed rather run-of-the-mill inside, a bit like Starmegabucks, but with lower prices and an individual flair. However, the staff left a lot to be desired. A dreadlocked girl watched me from behind the counter in a rather unnerving manner. No pleasantries were exchanged, no hellos, no whatcanIgetyous, just sulky, stroppy tangible silence. I felt as if I had invaded her territory, interrupted on her private party. I ordered a mug of Hot Choc.
'MARSHMALLOWS AND CREAM?' she barked. Jawohl mein Führer.
'No, just the chocolate, thanks', I replied
'TWO POUNDS!' she woofed back.
No thank you, no please, not even a cheesy enjoy. My change was thrown back at me like I was a leper. I sat outside as inside was full of those annoying equine people that congregate in Morningside, students taking up tables with empty glasses of tap water, muggins taxpayer worker me being shafted yet again.

CHOCOLATE HEAVEN!!! This chocolate was heavenly, done in the best continental style, its velvety smoothness slipping down my throat. I felt like I was on set at Chocolat and the chocolate's magical powers were about to be revealed. Sumptuous. I haven't had choc this good since I worked in France in the summer of 2006. I would definitely go back to CT providing I get an apology about the rudeness of the staff member, or she gets replaced. However, as I have said in the past, it doesn't matter how good the food and drink is, what matters for me is good customer service and an ounce of respect for the people who are your bread and butter. CT looks like a classy establishment, so get some classy, polished people working there to match your product, dreadlocks don't really scream 'food hygiene'.

Maybe I could set up the Barker with the Grunter from Montpeliers! What a couple that would be! Just call me Cilla Black...

Caffe Salvo, Edinburgh

A taste of Italy with a retro kick

Since I have been back in the UK (my anniversary was 1 year yesterday-woohoo!), I have been missing many things from my other home country, Germany. Many of these things are culinary of course; I miss the fact that the UK is severely lacking in bakeries; I miss the smell of fresh bread of a morning and these melting pots on every street corner. I miss the ability to go out and get a decent vegetarian kebab and last but not least, I miss the authentic Italian ice cream parlours.

Ice cream parlours are ubiquitous in Germany and together with kebab shops and bakeries, are part of the Berliners' eating habits. Every single shopping centre has its own ice cream parlour and in summer, parlours spring up like mushrooms on every street. The choice of flavours are overwhelming and imaginative eg After Eight, Tangerine, White Chocolate ...mmmm.. heaven. So you can imagine my disappointment when I arrived back in Blighty and all I saw was boring vanilla, chocolate and strawberry if I was lucky. I seriously do not understand how the British can call Mr Whippy ice cream, to me it is just mush.

Browsing around Edinburgh this sunny Saturday,I craved a Berlin-style trip to an 'Eisdiele' (as they are called in Germany) and Salvo's struck me as a place where I had to check out. It's not a run-of-the-mill chain, but a one-off, Sicilian ice cream parlour that also does meals and good strong coffee. I went in and stepped back in time to the 1950s and gasped at the surroundings. The place seemed to be a shrine of past Hollywood legends! Pictures of Monroe, Sinatra and other greats adorned the walls, a bit like my bedroom when I was a 12 yr old Take That fan! This was done in a way that it didn't look tacky (unlike my Take That gallery), but gave atmosphere to the place and added to the experience. It was almost like the stars were dining with you, their eyes watching you as you eat, guiding you towards the ice cream counter...

As I had a massive lunch that day, I couldn't face an ice cream but I checked out the selection for future reference. 10 flavours. Fantastic. Instead, I just opted for a beautifully strong cup of coffee. It met my high rigourous coffee standards. In fact, it exceeded them. This cafe is the perfect place to relax with a good book and is so charming, it finds a way into your heart. My only complaint is the opening hours are a bit restricted for me, as most days they shut at 3pm.

As I left, the film stars on the walls looked at me, willing me to return, which I did. I managed to grab some wholesome food,a steaming plate of Rigatoni Arrabiatta (pictured) and it was just the way I like it- spicy and with an added chili kick! In my previous life, I worked in Italy for 3 months and fell in love with the cuisine, it's a shame so many Italian restaurants in the UK cannot replicate these standards. However, the Sicilian Caffe Salvo doesn't fail to deliver the goods; a taste of sunshine in grey Edinburgh. Bellissima! Every inch of the restaurant oozes retro kitsch, from the window display of Marilyn Monroe down to the toilet doors emblazoned with Audrey Hepburn. Heartwarming and belly-filling.

And for those people wanting the taste of great Britain, you're not forgotten. Salvatore shows his allegiance to his new home country by offering Full Scottishes, all day breakfasts, beans on toast and fish and chips!

Edited August 2010

Salvo Caffe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Loopy Lorna's. Morningside, Edinburgh

A colourful yet civilised riot of tea and cakes!

I've never understood the British enthusiasm for a cup of black tea and milk. It is the source of amusement for our continental neighbours as although we have a reputation as a tea drinking nation, we tend not to drink it properly. The Brits tend to stick a bag of PG Tips or similar in with a load of milk and sugar and think that is the correct way. I never used to like tea much, but then when I discovered the wider world of leaves and more, I became quite a fan! When I moved to Germany in 2002, I was astonished to find the continentals were the tea fanatics, not the stereotypical Brits! Here, I discovered tea is an artform. Fruity flavours play a prominent role, as do the correct type of sugar, teapot, strainers and cups. More importantly is the fact that tasty tea needs to be served in its purest form and not enslaved in a bag. If Germany can pull this off successfully, how come so many places in tea's spiritual home the UK serve bagged tea? (Even sometimes with the bag bobbing up and down in it...ugh!) No worries, the revolution is coming and Loopy Lorna's is an exemplary tea house leading the way!

Loopy Lorna's has just opened its second branch in Edinburgh and once you have been, the experience will fill you with so much colour and joy it will stay imprinted on your mind, urging you to plan your next visit. It is owned by a Liverpudlian living in Edinburgh (remind you of anyone?!) and is a tribute to her late mum Lorna. Tea here is not just something to pass the time, it is a ritual, an event. The decor is predominantly pink which makes for great photo opportunities, perfect for a girlie afternoon. The china is mismatched with flowery prints and the clash of colours somehow match. It is a tea room but they serve other drinks like coffee but it would be a shame to come here and have an Americano (although it is potent and deliciously roasted...). Spoilt for choice, I read the tea menu like a book, devouring every description. Whoever thought tea could be so varied, so tasty? It was like reading a food menu. In the end, I settled on a Mint Pow, a zingy revitaliser. It was a combination of spearmint and peppermint which was extremely peppy-uppy. As the tea is served in its purest form, all teas are served with a strainer. Beats squeezing a bag with the back of a spoon and slinging it on the draining board! However, the highlight of LL's is the range of tea cosies.

Tea cosies? I hear you cry. Yes, cosies. Each teapot has its own personal touch as it is served with a handmade cosy. Glance round the cafe and you will see a riot of colour and homeliness. My cosy was a cheeky frog and I spotted a strawberry, an octopus, a bunny and more! What I love about this place is its individuality and attention to detail; the effort invested to make the cafe stand out from the crowd and not just to be another copy of Costa lot and Starmegabucks. Quirky touches like the cosies and the display of balloons in the entrance bring a smile to your face and leave a lasting impression.

Afternoon tea isn't complete without cake! On the counter is an amazing array of cupcakes, Victoria Sponge and many more delicacies. The cakes are arranged on delicate cakestands, temptingly standing there waiting to be eaten...this was the stuff dreams are made of! If LL's across-the-road neighbour is Willy Wonka, then this place is Alice in Wonderland.

In case anyone is reading this who knows me, my birthday is in 2 weeks. I really like cake, funky tea cosies and the idea of afternoon tea. I also have the day off work. Please take me to Loopy's. Not subtle I know but thanks anyway.

Loopy Lorna's on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

S. Luca, Morningside, Edinburgh and Musselburgh

Regular readers will know how much I miss living on the continent and visiting ice cream parlours on a regular basis. I love ice cream and I think there is a huge gap in the market in the UK for ice cream parlours to fill. Sure, we don't really have the perfect ice cream weather, but Germany's parlours thrive even in winter when it drops to -20 (yes, seriously. That cold.) The UK is so boringly bland when it comes to the creamy stuff, all I tend to get offered is vanilla, chocolate or strawberry, or if my restaurant of choice is feeling exotic, raspberry ripple! Wow. I have been on the hunt for the perfect ice cream in Edinburgh and have finally found it. Okay, it is technically not Edinburgh, but Musselburgh, however, the place I have found also has a branch in the city.

Step forward S. Luca, ice extraordinaire.

If, like myself, you are not a native, the name S. Luca would not mean much to you. The Edinburgers and Musselburgers get excited at the mention of its name. It conjures up childhood memories, sunny days and a reason to ditch the diet. A long established tradition in the city, Luca's has been around for the best part of a century, dishing up experimental taste explosions. Forget vanilla and its Neopolitan mates, try mango, banana and passion fruit. I sampled the banana ice cream, its rich flavour combining well with its sumptuous texture. The most imaginative flavour I saw had to be Irn-Bru, a testament to the company's Scottish success. This really was a thirstquencher.
The really indulgent should go for the Knickerbocker Glory or one of the other 'ice cream meals' as I call them. If you're in a rush, you can even get them to go!

If you need further proof that this place is popular, check out the queues snaking round the block. Even last Sunday, when the rain was lashing down, the loyal fans of the parlour were patiently queuing to get their fix.

The queue did indeed put me off and I ended just grabbing my gelato to go, determined to find the branch of Luca's close to where I live. Overjoyed, I found it was only 10 minutes away from me and with none of the long queues that Musselburgh has! I arrived a little after 8pm and the atmosphere was a lot more chilled than last week's Communist-style queuing, giving me time to peruse the menu and take in its offerings in greater detail. Luca's sells a wide range of savouries too like soup and burgers so why not make a meal of your ice cream parlour trip. Luca is really reminiscent of Germany where I could easily spend a whole afternoon and evening in a parlour- is the UK finally cottoning on to our hunger for ice cream and the fact that us British don't want just pubs and chippies?

After going up the spiral staircase, I was greeted warmly by the staff and shown to a table, the decor of the seating area a lovely lilac shade. According to the photo on the wall, Tony Blair sat at my very table. Now, I don't agree with his politics, but as this is a food blog, I can only say the man has taste in this instance! The menu offered some fabulous concoctions like Knickerbocker Glories and Banana Splits, but I fancied 3 assorted scoops at a bargainous £2.10. I opted for vimto sorbet, mint choc chip and banana with a topping of crushed nuts (50p extra). Heavenly. Each scoop was like an explosion of flavour and originality. A visit to an ice cream parlour is not complete without a cup of potent coffee either, so I downed a cup of Italy's finest brew. It passed my rigorous test.

Upon leaving, I spied Luca's other speciality, its chocolate. Perfect figurines of animals stand to attention in the display cabinet, so intricate they look like ornaments. However, they are made purely of chocolate. Too cute to eat, my favourites are the goldfish and the hedgehog. I would love to know where the chocolatier learnt his skills, I mean, the spines on the hedgehog and the fish's gills show such attention to detail!

After a night of Willy Wonka- style dreams, I was like a woman possessed. After my sumptuous meal at the nearby Scottish restaurant Howie's, I had to stop by Luca's for yet another fix. This time, I asked for a surprise sorbet medley, one of which was orange flavour...intensely summery.

I'd better quit while I'm ahead as I know if I carry on writing, I may become dangerous and let the Luca effect get the better of me again. Oh well, maybe I can pay a visit after work tomorrow. Or all weekend. Help, I am addicted....

Monday, 9 August 2010

Howie's, Morningside, Edinburgh

Classy lunch, slick service and not an ounce of pretentiousness!

This week, my usual routine of a Saturday night out (incorporating a meal of course) was interrupted due to boring technical difficulties and instead, I decided to have an extravagant Sunday lunch. No baguettes or chips for the Vindaloo Queen this week! As the city centre was fit to burst because of some festival or other (don't know what that could be, not heard anything about it but apparently lots of tourists go, aren't I sarky?!), we headed up to Morningside, my new favourite area of the city. Bypassing my old faithful Lee-On after last month's debacle, we headed to the leafier, more polished Morningside Road and I immediately got excited at a treasure trove of bars, cafes and restaurants to sample and review. Some were ominously empty, some were closed and some were fit to burst. Howie's stood invitingly on the corner.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but Howie's has the appearance of an old bank. Once you are inside, the mixture of old architecture and crisp modern furnishings and tableware creates a cosy yet spacious atmosphere. It is a bit like a Tardis- it seems small and squashed but once inside, it is surprisingly spacious with room to manoeuvre and you can still have a private conversation here. For me, there is nothing worse than being nudged and shoved and hearing snippets of supposedly private conversations. After a warm welcome, we were shown to a roomy table for two and given beautiful fresh crusty bread and butter. On a Sunday, they have a special lunch menu for £8.99 but as I am veggie, the same meal was on the normal menu for 8! Always the sneaky bargain hunter...

The starter was a Tomato and Basil soup; this was fresh, plummy and piquant. The quality was evident in its texture and it definitely was not any of your bog standard Heinz tinned rubbish. Chives, basil, tomatoes and onions got on extremely well together in this little party in a bowl!

For the main, I opted for the vegetarian kievs with a side order of wedges. I was surprised at the superb quality of the wedges; they were definitely homemade. Sadly, I have become accustomed to being served up the frozen rubbish and was overjoyed to taste spuds so fresh. The kievs were a brilliant, experimental dish for veggies sick of getting fobbed off with mushroom risotto and bland pasta which so many British restaurants seem fond of. These spherical treats (see pic) were a rich combination of lentils, garlic and other herbs rolled in breadcrumbs, served on a bed of chunky courgette, minted peas and parsley.

The portions were not huge but they were filling, proving good things do come in small packages and appearances can be deceptive- excuse my corny choice of cliches please! This is quality food and most certainly not for gluttons used to Jimmy Chungs and N**do's (don't make me swear). Veggies like me will be impressed at the thought gone into the veggie creations; hats off to Howie's for pushing the boat out and being imaginative when creating a meal for us. The effort is appreciated and you have a repeat customer in me.

Howies on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Abida, St John's Road, Edinburgh- the rise and fall


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.

FEB 2010

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.

JULY 2010

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.

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