AM I the only one who dreams about discovering a secret room in my flat? That’s how it felt to find new Malaysian eatery, Nanyang.
It’s in Edinburgh’s newish Quartermile district – a grid of slightly antiseptic glass-fronted buildings topped by open-plan offices and posh pads. Most of the commercial properties on the ground level are yet to be occupied, although a branch of Scandinavian diner Peter’s Yard – Savour To Go – and a cafe-bookshop, Looking Glass Books, have taken up residence.
Most days, I pass by on nearby Middle Meadow Walk, but I’d never venture along the narrow paths that lead you into this hidden zone, the layout of which reminds me of those games where you guide a ball bearing through a maze.
But in the central square you’ll find this new eatery. It smells of freshly laid carpets, with cream leather seating and a wall of Seventies-style mustard wallpaper. Smart. The staff are beyond enthusiastic, and attentive. In fact, we all felt like bosom buddies, even before our starter – the Nanyang special platter (£15.90 for two, minimum order) – had landed.
This featured duos of four of their signature options, as well as a bush of deep-fried cabbage topped with brown sugar, all of which was dressed-up with a Parma violet-coloured orchid. The hay-coloured nyonya pai tee (aka top hats) consisted of ridged rice-flour cups, each filled with chicken, mushroom and spring onion niblets. Umami. Popiah itik were crisp and tightly wrapped, skin-coloured spring roll cigars, which contained another savoury blend, of shredded cabbage and duck. A pair of Nanyang special prawns were fat and meaty, each coated in a scaly skin of sesame seeds. Pandan chicken was another winner, with two nuggets of soft poultry, strapped, like parachutists, into pandan leaves. These hors d’ouevre-like nibbles were all fresh and light.
We got into a pickle when deciding what to have for mains, thanks to a lengthy menu that’s full of temptations. We settled on two Malaysian classics – sambal squid (£11.95) and rendang beef (£9.95). I’m a sucker for a salty, sweet and hot combo, so the latter dish was a treat. It consisted of a pile of soft meat, served on a saucer of roti canai bread and coated in a thick and clingy coconuty, gingery and garlicky sauce, with a whisper of chilli.
Our fishy dish was good too, with plenty of squiddy bangles in a manageably hot sauce, with a tinge of sour tamarind, squeaky green beans and red peppers. A single shared helping of coconut rice (£3.50), which was topped with a flurry of the powdery desiccated stuff, was comfortingly sweet and nurseryish, and enough to feed two.
I’m sure Nanyang’s desserts are as competent as the impressive savouries, although the choices, which included black forest gateau (£4.50) and chocolate fudge cake (£4.50), didn’t sound particularly authentic.
We adjourned to the nearby Looking Glass Books (3 Porters Walk, Edinburgh, 0131-229 2902). It has a well-curated selection of paperbacks and bookish gifts, with a seating area that features cup ring and crumb-free (so far) low-slung coffee tables and lilac velvet couches.
Edinburgh’s Manna House patisserie (www.themannahousebakery.co.uk) supplies their cakes. We went for a squishy and fruity little lemon and blueberry bundt (£1.40) and a fat slice of orange polenta cake (£1.80) which, on the orangey scale, was more subtly sun-kissed than an Oompa Loompa.
Go to these two places. They are just off the beaten path, waiting for you to find them.
Unit 1, 3-5 Lister Square, South Pavilion, Quartermile, Edinburgh (0131-629 1797, www.nanyang restaurant.com)
Lunch for two, excluding drinks, £41.30
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Friday 24 May 2013
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