The food at cocktail bar and restaurant, Ishka, needs refining, says Gaby Soutar

What do you call someone who practices neuromodulation? A neuromodulator, or a neuromodulicator? I’m not sure, so I think I’ll just settle for doctor.

Anyway, there were lots of them at this restaurant and cocktail bar on a Monday night.

They’d spilled across the road from the Edinburgh International Conference Centre after a day at the International Neuromodulation Society 13th World Congress.

I often find that all I want after a day of neuromodulating is a good meal, and they must have felt the same, as this place was more packed than a sudoku-playing cranium’s worth of synapses, perhaps because there isn’t a lot of choice on this patch.

I’m not sure how I feel about the new interior though. It used to be the light and bright Brasserie Les Amis, but they’ve done it up to look like a footballer’s favourite nightclub.

It includes what looks like blackened corrugated iron behind the bar, as well as a metal ISHKA sign with its K picked out in ultraviolet light.

Also, the table situation hasn’t improved, in that they’re rammed so close together, you feel as if you’re on a budget coach trip.

Anyway, the menu looked good, as did the cocktails.

I kicked off with the exotic-sounding Le Mer (£10).

Well, I say kicked off, but, although I ordered it before our food, it didn’t arrive until after the starters did.

No biggie, if they hadn’t have looked so annoyed when I asked.

This drink also needed more attention than anticipated. There was a less-exciting-than-it-had-sounded take on a margarita (“Don Julio Reposado, amandine, grapefruit, vanilla nori, lime”) in a tumbler, but on top they’d put the surreal addition of an oyster shell containing a huge scoop of coconut ice-cream.

Does one eat the ice-cream, or add it to the drink, to transform it into an Eighties-style Coke float? If you’d dropped it in, the liquid would’ve overflowed, so I ate it while trying to tackle my grilled asparagus (£9).
That was disappointing too, I’d ordered it for the truffle paneer ingredient, but there was barely a snuff spoon’s worth of non-truffled cheese on top of four shrivelled pieces of asparagus, like a bogeyman’s fingers.

I think they’d forgotten the grain mustard dressing, though there were some hoops of crispy shallot.

We had also been excited about the smoked chicken option (£7.50), though we needn’t have been.

It was just OK, with, once you’d battled through the Sleeping Beauty-esque forest of frisee, cat-foodie-chunks of chook, a few whole almonds, apple matchsticks and some of a quite overwhelming saffron-infused yogurt.

Mains were so-so. My pork loin (£17) was as fibrous as jerky, with a thin gravy painted on top.

It came with “spiced sticky black beans”, which were neither of those adjectives, though fine.

There was a sweet potato purée and watery stamps of pickled pak choi, plus a soft, underseasoned chunk of “glazed” pork cheek.

The rump of lamb (£17.50) was better, though it also lacked finesse, with rather flobbery chunks of meat. These were served on top of puréed aubergine and a smudge of zhoug, which could’ve done with a bit of chilli in it.

So, the winning element, decorating either side of the plate, like Pat Butcher’s earrings, were the pair of crispy haggis bonbons.

There wasn’t any carb with this dish, so we ordered some good and crispy sweet potato fries (£3.50).

The puddings were the best bit. Our chocolate and blackcurrant brownie (£6.50) was a bit more luxurious than your usual tray bake, with a middle of cocoa-y goo, buttons of berry coulis on the side and a blob of clotted cream ice-cream on top.

They’d gone arty with the apple meringue (£5), which looked like something you’d find in a terrarium.

I enjoyed the mossy shreds of green pistachio cake alongside blobs of Italian meringue, quenelles of apple compote and caramelised nuts.

It was an ending that slightly stimulated my atrophying grey matter. However, those who really want to satisfy their gustatory cortex might want to think about taking their brain elsewhere for dinner.

Ishka

82 Morrison Street, Edinburgh

(0131-228 7517, www.ishkaedinburgh.co.uk)

Ishka, restaurant review, Edinburgh
Food60%
Ambience60%
60%Overall Score
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)
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About The Author

Gaby Soutar

Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.

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