We were going to have a round of tapas at Tapa Leith. I got caught up commenting on someone else’s blog post.
@EyeEdinburgh Oi! Tapas!
— Kreetch (@Kreetch) March 31, 2012
Yes, well. Tapa is about twenty minutes walk from where I live: Kreetch and I walked by the river part of the way, admiring the splashy way ducks land and take off. On the Shore we bumped into a party of four lost young men who wanted to know if we knew where “that Tapas bar was”, and we said agreeably that we were going there.
When we got there, it was Saturday-night crowded and I asked one of the waitstaff “table for two?” in the tone of voice that expects the answer no. In a minute she came back and told us they wouldn’t have a table free till nine. It was ten past eight. By mutual consent we walked out and down to the Shore, with the vague intent of walking to International Starters to have vaguely tapas-like things. Not as good as Tapa, but better than waiting over an hour to eat.
The river is beautiful in the sunset light. I have photographed it from all angles in all lights at all seasons. Kreetch asked if I’d photographed it from a boat. The Tiso along Commercial Street rents canoes. Er… no.
We stopped to look at the menu outside an Indian restaurant and one of the waitstaff came out with a menu. Guchhi. Indian seafood tapas. It looked much quieter than Tapa. There were vegetarian options. We went in.
The room has a pleasant almost living-room feel to it: there is rather ugly wallpaper to the right of the door, and facing the door, a rather lovely arrangement of shallow frames with glass bottles. The tables are dark wood, and the napkins large, red, and flower-folded.
The waitstaff left us the menus and went away to bring us popadoms and dips. (We found later that we were charged about £4 for this.) The popadoms and the mango chutney were nice enough: but the spiced onion dip was really delicious: a mingling of herbs and spices that made this standard dip something out of the ordinary. We didn’t leave any of it.
I’d been looking down the menu at the vegetarian options and thinking they looked rather standard – the usual range of daal, channa, poori, pakora – but given how good the dip was, I decided to try two of the most standard vegetarian dishes, channa poori and tadkewali daal, with a chapatti.
Kreetch ordered the kurkuri macchi and the nawada lamb, and a peshwari nan.
We didn’t have to wait very long – though we had time to finish off all of the spiced onion with the rest of the popadoms.
The kurkuri macchi were fillets of coley, marinated in spices, coriander seed and fresh coriander, lightly dipped in batter and shallow-fried, served with a small dish of dip and a small garnish of salad. The nawada lamb was succulent pieces of meat in a thick mint sauce.
The poori bread was light and fluffy, the channa perfectly cooked and spiced in a thin red hot sauce. Tarka dal is always different in every Indian kitchen, and this variation was excellent – thick, rich with tomatoes, cumin, coriander, and hot with spices.
Peshwari nan is often too sweet, but this was nicely rich with ground almonds in the centre: the only flaw in the meal was the chapatti, which was well-cooked but a little too greasy.
We were almost full but the waitstaff brought the dessert menu over: Kreetch had the chocolate fudge cake with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, and I had a mango kulfi, sweet and refreshing, just what I wanted after the spices of the channa and daal.
I had a glass of Pinot Noir and Kreetch had iced Irn Bru. Total bill, just under £44. We’ll definitely be back.