Restaurant review: Solti, Drummond Street, Edinburgh
To quote Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone in The Godfather: Part III, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”
I had resumed, with relish, eating in at restaurants, but have to pull the plug on meeting a pal for dinner – this is before the regulations came into effect last week closing restaurants – and I instead opt for a takeaway due to a cough that I realise with a sinking heart is indeed new, continuous, and potentially Covid-y, although later turns out not to be. Unlike certain politicians, I am following the rules.
Then again I remember the joyful domestic hedonism and convenience of having food cooked and brought to my front door. The thrill of anticipation is heightened by my curry cravings having recently intensified, specifically for butter chicken, since writing a news story about a company that has seen sales of its mouthwatering-sounding curries soar during lockdown.
And I’ve chosen to order from Solti, a new addition to family-run Nepalese restaurant Gautam’s in Meadowbank. Apparently pronounced “Soal-tee,” it has opened up on 10 Drummond Street in Newington - the previous site of Red Fort Indian, and not much more than a pakora’s throw from curry heaven Mother India.
Solti’s intended aim before opening included providing more diverse dishes to educate guests about the variety of flavours from different regions of Nepal and India.“We offer a world of flavours and spices, which all comes together to create a dining experience that will transport you to another world,” the website says. If it can “transport” me out of my living room/office even briefly, count me in.
I get ordering on Uber Eats - an online food delivery service I have been making very regular use of during lockdown. This is not least because, like DFS sofas, it never seems to be full price, with a decent money-off coupon always available.
While the extensive menu has sections including korma, saag, and vegetarian, I immediately lock down a portion of Ma’s butter chicken, a decision I feel is vindicated by it being listed as both a best-seller and a chef’s favourite. It’s described as being mild to medium, containing chicken tikka in a creamy, tomato sauce with butter and aromatic fenugreek.
After perusing the Solti signature starters, I order Tandoori king prawns, marinated with yogurt, fresh garlic and mustard seeds - and the paneer sashlik tikka.
My order also features pilau rice and a garlic naan, while I add two popadoms with Solti’s house chutney.
As there are mysteriously no drinks on offer, not even any soft drinks, I press “order” and then power walk to the local shop to get some Irn-Bru.
The order arrives promptly, and I begin to unbox. And what I find is in common with quite a few takeaways I’ve had - it’s mostly correct with odd bonus item I didn’t order, and something missing. In this case, I get three popadoms instead of two (no complaints!) and although my chutney is absent, in its place are three sauces, at least one of which I recognise as raita.
First to be opened and devoured is the prawn starter, a small but high-quality portion of juicy prawns whose yogurt-soaked flesh is balanced by a delicious charred flavour.Likewise the paneer is delicious, coated in tikka sauce and arriving with a small entourage of roasted peppers and onions.
The naan, however, is not the delight of thin dough cooked to bubble-surfaced perfection and glazed with a generous portion of garlic, but rather - like me throughout lockdown - a rather listless and unimpressive offering. I do, however, eat every last crumb.
I then dive into the curry, but I find the sauce far more scarlet-coloured, tomato-y and surprisingly sweet, like ketchup, than I expected, having had visions of something rich and creamy and a paler red.
But by this stage I’m quite full anyway, so I decide to harness that Irrefutable Law of Curry that it tastes better the next day, and put it in the fridge.
That decision pays off handsomely, and the flavour and texture of both the meat and the sauce are much improved, and I add some spinach, as a kind of butter chicken-saag duet.
The next day I go back and look at the menu again, and kick myself for not being more adventurous. I could have had, say, the chicken MoMo - classic Nepali steamed dumplings - or a starter named Malekhu Ko Macha - a curiosity-piquing dish of Panga fish marinated with a Malekhu-inspired batter served with a Nepali mint chutney.
Had I been in the restaurant I could have asked for some expert recommendations, rather than blindly making my own inexpert choices - with the latter a meal that proved enjoyable but not prompting great praise overall - The Godfather Part III of curries.
Solti, 10 Drummond Street, Edinburgh EH8 9TU
Tel: 0131-374 2515 https://solti.co.uk