In short, you should go to Konkana. Spoiler alert; the quality of the food is well above your average Indian experience, yet casual enough to avoid being dubbed ‘fine dining.’ Reasonably priced meals with a focus on seafood, accompanied by an excellent wine list, make for a delectable evening of well-executed cuisine served in a clean, bright environment.
“I love fish pakora!” said a friend when I told him about the Indian seafood dinner Caroline and I shared. “Oh, there weren’t any,” I had replied. But fear not, Robbie, because our starter of Goan Fish Fry was an excellent alternative. Small pieces of thin white fish were coated in an elegant batter, a textural sophistication found in its tiny particles. Inside, the fish was both gentle and warm from spices; far better than any pakora.
Our other starter, Aloo Chaat Sea Bass, was described on the menu as “a wonderful way to eat a mild, locally sourced fish combined with street food flavors from the Indian subcontinent.” So true! Two fillets were served crispy skin up on a bed of soft potato dice and pomegranate seeds, with a light, tangy sauce. It was a generous portion but still felt like just the right amount, with a pop of sweetness from the pomegranate balancing the plain potato and the firm flakes of fish.
With context, it’s easy to understand why these dishes were so delicious. For one, Konkana’s owners run vegetarian stalwart Kalpna, so their chefs know what they’re doing. Secondly, the menu really reflects the restaurant’s namesake, an area in India known for its seafood. The lobster, crab, sea bass, salmon, cod, haddock, squid, scallops and more are all locally landed and incredibly fresh, as confirmed by the lack of softshell crab due to a change in the weather.
Fortunately, our crab needs were met in the Crab Banjara, one of the ‘whole meals.’ Not something I’d seen on a menu before, ostensibly it meant the dish came served with a fragrant rice best suited to its flavour profile. The crab meat was marinated in a creamy coconut and tomato sauce, topped with tempura prawns. The curry had a meaty texture, thick thanks to the flaked crab, whilst the sauce had a complimentary dark, dense flavour. It was served with a lovely coconut rice, well cooked, with bay leaves and whole peppercorns providing a thoughtful lift beyond plain rice.
Our second main was the Kerala Cod, which came in a rich and very flavourful tomato sauce, slightly tangy rather than coconut-sweet. Although spicy, like many of the other dishes it had more zing than heat and it was very more-ish; perfect for mopping up with the breads we ordered as sides.
To get a true cross-section of what was available it seemed only right that we try both naan and paratha, although roti was also on offer. The oven-baked peshwari naan was light and fluffy, its sweet middle a lovely contrast to the sour notes of the tomato sauces. In comparison, the rough-textured fried ajwaini paratha had a robust taste emboldened by its caraway seeds, which worked well with the crab.
Whilst you can get also vegetarian dishes, plus some with chicken or lamb, we were overall very pleased to have opted for their speciality. Each time a dish came out, whether for us or the next table, you could immediately smell the aromatics and your mouth started watering. The precedent set with the savoury courses for delicious, in-house cooking continued with dessert too. (Fortunately fish was absent.)
I opted for gajar halwa, a popular Indian dessert made with carrot. Caroline has a sweeter tooth and chose the gulab jamun. In both cases, these well-made treats were sweetened rather than tooth-achingly sweet. The gajar halwa had a great texture, neither too soggy nor too dry, with lightly spiced grated carrot wrapped in flaky pastry.
The gulab jamun was soaked in rose syrup but not dripping, giving its soft cardamom-flavoured dough a pleasant burst of flavour. In both cases, the accompanying ice cream was a good addition for contrasting creaminess. The decorative “Treat sauce” I felt was excessive, tho Caroline licked the plate clean, implying it was unnecessary but not detrimental.
Upon reflection, Konkana’s press claim, ‘Edinburgh’s first Indian seafood restaurant’ may not be so unlikely. It seemed odd to me at first, but I’ve struggled to think of another Indian restaurant which uses Scotland’s incredible seafood as its main ingredient – let alone one that does it so well. Does it deserve your attention? Absolutely. Especially, if like me, you order your Indian from the same place every time. Get up off your sofa and explore.
30-32 Leven Street,
Edinburgh EH3 9LJ
Amy and Caroline dined at the invitation of Konkana