LACY curtains, photographs of Korean food, a ceramic clog and chintzy bone china crockery.
Been to Kim’s Mini Meals? Then you’ll understand what I’m talking about.
If you haven’t, then prepare to enter a BYOB eatery that describes itself as “elegant and comfy, just like home”. That’s accurate, if your residence features a decor that could be described as Barbara Cartland meets couthy tea room via a Red Cross shop.
It’s eccentric, but very loveable.
I took a seat, which was made of green velour and studded with sparkly glass buttons.
The eponymous owners, the Kims (for this is a proper family business), were all visible – mum in and out of the kitchen, and father and son front of house.
“Do you like classical music?” Dad asked, when Beethoven came on the stereo. I nodded obediently, as two gratis bowls of mushroom soup landed on the table, for me and my dining partner Mercy. Standard, as funghi broths go.
However, the kimbap (£5) which came next, was great. There were 11 of these laver-wrapped parcels of nutty and glutinous black rice, the latter of which was an inky purple shade and dotted with sesame seeds.
In the centre of each generous whorl – like a cross-section of a mineral – was some neatly-packed crab stick, a sliver of pastel-coloured omelette, folded ham, grated carrot and kimchi.
Our other starter – the gamja jeon (£7), served on a flowery Portmerion plate, was, essentially, a springy omelette, containing grated potato, flecks of shiitake mushroom, struts of spring onion and just a little nip of chilli.
On the side was a sweetened soy sauce for dipping. A homely offering.
To be honest, these options would be enough for a decent lunch, but we wanted a proper tour of the menu.
Mr Kim, aka Dad, came over to help us with our main courses.
Mercy’s vibrant-looking dolsot bibimbap (£7) was hissing away in its hot stone bowl, with ingredients including grated carrot, kimchi, courgette strips, sliced mushrooms, mince, white rice, a large blob of gochujang (spicy red pepper sauce) and a raw egg. Pops grabbed the chopsticks and stirred the lot, until the latter was crisp and everything was cross-pollinated to perfection.
My dining partner, who has a Korean sister-in-law and, thus, is experienced in the ways of the traditional bibimbap, liked this dish 110 per cent (as they say on Britain’s Got Talent).
“Where is your spoon?” said Mr Kim, before demonstrating how I should tackle my pork bulgogi (£7). First, a shred of lettuce, then a layer of a yoghurty pineapple purée, then a piece of thinly sliced pork, which was clad in a spicy gochujang sauce, with chopped veg and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. On the top of this spoonful – a clod of the violet rice.
Down the hatch (he didn’t, thankfully, stay to make sure I ate all my dinner). Lovely: hot and sweet, spicy and nutty, proper soul food. These dishes were washed down with some electrifyingly sugary Korean juice - one glass of crushed pear (£1.50) and a medicinal-tasting cinnamon drink (£1.50).
We didn’t really need pudding, but we thought we’d give it a whirl.
At lunchtime, we were told that there was a choice of “coffee or custard cake”. We ordered one of each, and both of us received the same vaguely coffee-ish hostess cake, with a cream filling. Considering they only charged us £1.50 each, mustn’t grumble.
Anyway, this place is all about the savouries and spices. On the website, they, rather humbly, describe themselves as “one of the best Korean restaurants in Edinburgh”. Considering there are only about three in the entire country, I think they could consider themselves one of the best in Scotland. If not (taking the prices and generous portions into consideration) THE very best.
After all, this is a gem of a place, with lots of personality, which is probably why it was heaving on our weekday lunchtime visit.
Because of this, they don’t take reservations, so be prepared to turn up and try your luck.
It’s worth it, Mr Kim and his ceramic clog will be waiting for you.
Kim’s Mini Meals
5 Buccleuch Street,
Edinburgh (0131-629 7951, www.kimsminimeals.com)
Lunch for two, excluding drinks, £29