Restaurant reviews: three of the best middle eastern eateries
Jonathan Trew samples the delights of the east in Edinburgh.
POMEGRANATE 1 Antigua Street, Edinburgh, EH1 3NH. Telephone: 0131-556 8337
Open: Noon-midnight (Sun-Thu), noon-3am (Fri/Sat). Three-course average cost: £18, not licensed, BYOB no corkage
Bright, bustling and friendly
The arrival of Khushi’s last year has shaken up the well-established restaurant row opposite the Playhouse. One of the casualties was Ferri’s, an Italian which has been replaced by Pomegranate. The new arrival promises Middle Eastern street food and a shisha bar, a format which has worked well for the owners in their other restaurant, Hanam’s up on Johnston Terrace.
Decked out in lime green and pomegranate pink, it’s a colourful spot staffed by young, enthusiastic folk. Their efficiency doesn’t always match their friendliness but that is easily forgiven when the food does arrive.
Pungent, garlicky hummus topped with shards of salty roast lamb was the perfect snack food while the fatoush salad – fried bread, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber and radish sprinkled with tart sumac – was crisp and crunchy. The baba ganoush, or aubergine pureé, was lively with lemon juice and had a good wallop of tahini.
Char-grilled skewers of lamb and chicken breast were very generously proportioned and marinated before being cooked. Little dipping bowls of garlic and chilli sauce added more kick. We mopped it all up with puffy, golden naan bread.
Desserts were out of the question but the saffron and cardamom ice cream sounded tempting.
• Simple, satisfying and good value
HANEDAN 41 West Preston Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9PY. 0131-667 4242
Open: Noon-3pm, 5.30pm- late (Tue-Sun). Three-course average: £18, House wine per glass: £3.60
Tiny, homely and popular Turkish diner
For almost a decade, Hanedan’s chef and owner Gursel Bahar has been working the charcoal grill which faces customers as they walk through the door at this compact, split-level restaurant. It is a cosy, potentially cramped, space with simple white walls and Turkish lanterns which give it a warm glow.
It was packed out on the damp Tuesday night that we visited and it’s not hard to see why. Starters such as the thick hummus, juicy beef meatballs and crunchy spinach and yoghurt salad are simple but done with spanking-fresh ingredients so that the flavours really zing.
From the main courses, a portion of moussaka seemed rather flabby and textureless to me but not to the person who ordered and enthusiastically demolished it. A mixed grill of lamb, chicken and garlic sausage was a carnivorous delight with a caramelised char at the edges and an aromatic hit from the dried herbs which flecked the surface.
With all but two of the main courses under a tenner and a keenly priced drinks list, Hanedan has all the right ingredients for a great neighbourhood diner and, judging by the stream of customers through the door, local residents appreciate its charms.
• Wish this was at the end of my street
SULTAN KITCHEN 63 Cockburn Street, Edinburgh EH1 1BS 0131-237 2448
Open: 11am-10pm (Mon-Sun). Average price for three courses: £18, Bottle of ginger beer: £2
Stripped-back Middle Eastern diner
Farewell Avalanche Records on Cockburn Street. Hello Sultan Kitchen. Downloads may have decimated the independent record shops but Middle Eastern restaurants, many with Kurdish connections, are thriving in Edinburgh.
The Sultan Kitchen is a new venture which should do well in the capital’s tourist hub. In terms of the decor, it’s Spartan. Think walls stripped to the stone and a few lanterns and shisha pipes which join forces with a wooden owl (or maybe it’s an eagle) sitting above the door to the kitchen.
From a set meal for two (£29.95), the starters were by far the most interesting. Decent hummus, moist falafel and a ground rice cake stuffed with spiced, almost haggis-like mince shone out. Stuffed vine leaves and stuffed aubergines were bland. Some fatoush or tabouleh salad would have been better.
Beautiful, buttery, nutty rice was the best thing about the main courses. Grilled lamb and chicken were as you would expect – tasty char on the outside but hard to be excited by. Accompanying bowls of courgettes and aubergines in a Heinz-like tomato sauce reminded me of student cooking.
Thumbs up for a dessert of soft, melting baklava, thick with honey and crushed pistachio nuts. Thumbs down for the yellow, tasteless ice cream which came with them.
The staff are gentle and solicitous but the food is hit and miss.
• There is more to Middle Eastern food than this
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