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Restaurant review: Meadowood, Edinburgh

Meadowood Cafe. Picture: Colin Hattersley

Meadowood Cafe. Picture: Colin Hattersley

Gaby Soutar

But, the die was already cast (well, the taxi was booked).

As tomorrow is Chinese New Year, when we enter into the Year of the Snake, I thought this would be the perfect venue to see out the last hours of the Year of the Dragon.

It’s a family business, owned by couple Andrew and Mai-Ling Bell, who work front of house and in the kitchen respectively, and serve a cheap and cheerful Taiwanese-inspired menu.

There appears to have been no interior designer employed, so check your pretensions and love of Villeroy & Bosch at the door.

Beyond the steamed-up windows, plastered with laminated menus, lie be-postered walls and huge stacks of elderly magazines, including a rumpled issue of Hello.

While Alice pored over what Wills and Kate did back in August 2011, Mercy persuaded us to order pronto. She’s experienced slow-loris-speed service here, and we were on our lunch hour.

However, the jumbo combo of dumplings (£9) arrived swiftly, possibly because we were the only diners on a Tuesday afternoon.

Two hub cap-sized bamboo steamers were filled with a dozen pale flesh-coloured dumplings, each stuffed with a combination of mashed pork with either lettuce, celery or finely chopped mushroom, as well as versions hewn from chicken and chive.

The centrepiece of this display consisted of two eyeball-sized pork sui mai, dotted with a carroty iris, and a pair of pea-topped chicken sui mai. All were oozingly hot, vibrant and cockle-warming.

A quartet of char siu buns (£3.50) were kittenishly fluffy, with their sweet doughy exterior housing a heart of salty barbecue beef.

Four between three is always difficult, and there was a fight over the runt of the litter. Mercy won.

We took up our spoons to tackle the vegetarian hot and sour soup (£3.50). However, its innocently transparent depths disguised a shimmering fireyness that was only comparable to burning your ear off with a pair of ghds. Not for wimps.

If you can handle the chilli, then this had a nicely vinegary tang, with shreds of satisfyingly chewy tofu skin, spring onions and coriander.

Next up, and the crispy fried tofu (£3.50), from the Quick Snacks section of the menu, resembled a collapsed croquembouche, with around 20 deep-fried and battered puffballs of munchy tofu. The perfect snack for a salad dodger.

Another main – a Rice Meal of hon su beef (£7) – featured a school-canteen-esque mess tray. In their appropriate compartments were a neatly hedgehog-shaped patty of rice, a handful of salted peanuts and some braised and peppered veg, including carrot discs and pak-choi. Then there was the ladleful of meat, which was soft and flaky, in a thick, treacle-hued sauce which tasted mainly of star anise. Good, if a bit salty, but that’s what the fruit smoothie, fresh juice and pearl milk tea sections of the menu here are for.

We tried a coffee version (£3.50) of the latter. Owner Andrew makes them over at some crazy Willy Wonka-style dream machine.

Then they’re delivered, sealed in a plastic container with a cartoon angel on the top of the cellophane.

You’re armed with a fat javelin of a straw, so you can spear the lid, then suck up the tea as well as the chewy spheres, which are nicely saturated with the flavour of the drink. Fun.

This doubled up as our dessert as, according to Andrew, they no longer do the fruit-topped waffles, as listed on the menu, and there was none of the signature jelly pudding left.

But that’s okay, as yin, yang and I were all stuffed.

And, although yang still finds the scrappy décor and the idiosyncratic service at Meadowood a bit of a challenge, I think she’s coming round to this place’s brand of homely and purse-friendly food.

Hooray for workplace harmony in the Year of the Snake.

Meadowood

15 Bread Street, Edinburgh 0131-228 5484, www.meadowood.co.uk

How much?

Lunch for three, excluding drinks, £26.50

 

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