When the nights close in and the wind gets chilly, I start yearning for warm and filling dishes. It’s a perfect time to investigate Edinburgh’s Indian restaurants. Last week, I visited Vinyasa, a cosy restaurant on St. Mary’s Street, just off the Royal Mile, on the same block as David Bann’s and Stac Polly. I enjoyed a long walk through town before dinner, working up an appetite. I needed that walk (and the walk I took after dinner) because the food I had was scrumptious and rich.
Vinyasa is a long, relatively narrow restaurant with modern and colourful decor. Walls, tables and seats are elegantly neutral while the bar area is lit by bright blue, red and yellow glass panels. Large lit gold and yellow pictures warm the walls. When I arrived, my companion was comfortably seated next to one. We were in the body of the restaurant, where a number of tables were already taken by couples or people eating on their own. There are also booths, for larger groups.
One of the pleasures of dinner, to me, is conversation and the company of good friends or loved ones. Eating out is a great way to share an experience with friends, and some foods are particularly good for a long chat. I like Indian food, sushi and mussels are all particularly good. I eat very quickly so anything that slows me down is welcome. My companion at Vinyasa is one of my oldest friends and eating with her is always a pleasure. We plan dishes so we can share and say yes to every suggestion from the waiter. Do we want poppadoms? Oh, absolutely!
After we’ve cleaned the plate of poppadoms and hoovered up the pickles, we move on to the starters.
We’ve ordered macchi kebab – fish kebabs – and king prawn pathia with puri. They were both good. The king prawns were plump and had that fresh, crunchy texture that shows they haven’t been over-cooked. The puri was deliciously flaky, soft and tempting. I could happily eat this dish as a main and it is great for sharing and chatting. Pull off a piece of puri and spoon in a mouthful of kingprawn pathia. Pop into mouth and enjoy.
The fish kebabs too were moreish. They were made with salmon, flavoursome enough to stand up to the marinade. The fish is tender and tasty. Both dishes came with sauces, but were great just as they were, so we dipped less than we could have.
Lamb and dahl
I was very excited when I saw lamb shatkora on the menu. I first encountered this dish last year but was an instant fan. Shatkora is a Bangladeshi citrus fruit that adds a wonderful bitter, citrusy flavour to dishes. It works beautifully with lamb, lifting the sometimes too rich meat. It’s a hottish dish and one I keep coming back to. It’s just so good, a medley of spicy, sour and almost smokey flavours. (If the heat builds up, a mouthful of dahl cools it down again.)
Then you find a piece of shatkora. I really enjoy the limey flavour of the cooked fruit, a flare of bright flavour against the mellow spiciness of the sauce.
We also had the butter bean gosht, the chef’s own recipe and one of the restaurant’s specials. The lamb butterbean gosht was lovely. The beans lend the dish a creamy consistency and the medium spicy sauce makes a harmonious whole. We were recommended tarka dahl and aloo sag as sides. Both go very well with lamb and both were, on their own, delicious. I have a weakness for a good dahl and this was just as creamy and soothing as I wanted it to be.
If we hadn’t had a plain naan and the rather lovely piazi rice – rice buttered and served with fried onions – we might have managed to eat everything. But we did. It breaks my heart not to be able to finish good food so it was with sadness that I admitted myself beaten. But not to worry: they kindly put the left-overs in a doggy bag and I was fortunate enough to have dahl, rice, naan, sag aloo and butter bean gosht two days in a row. What happy ending!
34 St Mary’s Street
Edinburgh EH1 1SX
Telephone: 0131 556 6776
Thank you to Crimson Edge for the photo of Vinyasa’s interior.