AN UNEXPECTED baby-sitting opportunity has come up, and the other half and I grab it and run – quite literally – for the bright lights of Leith. We haven’t booked anywhere, so we take pot luck at Agoon Pani, the Indian restaurant that replaced the long-established Raj on one corner of the Shore nine months ago. There are only three other tables occupied, while someone also waits for a takeaway, which seems surprising for a Friday night, but at least guarantees us a table right away.
Now under new management, the interior has undergone a complete revamp. The bold colour of before has been replaced with white walls set off with a wooden floor and a large mural of giant pebbles adding a hint of colour. Fringed shades are suspended above crisp white tablecloths, while delicate white plates with a silver trim complete the elegant new look; it’s a lovely, airy space with views across to the Water of Leith from one side of the restaurant.
We order a bottle of house red, a Chilean merlot, which seems very good value at £15.95 and stands up well to the diverse range of dishes we sample.
The menu itself is extensive with several options I haven’t seen before. Staff, however, are very friendly and happy to explain everything. There is a good selection of vegetarian options, as well as an impressive array of Seafood House Specials at the pricier end of the menu. In the Classic Oldies section – ranging from korma to dhansak and patia – you can have a tasting menu size, with two dishes recommended per person, which makes a great option for larger parties happy to share.
For those of us who don’t like to share, there is plenty to be selfish about. My husband starts with Chana Puri (£3.95), a new dish to us, which turns out to be delicately spiced chick peas served with puffed fried puri. The puri is a type of bread, light and quite puffy – resembling a doughy clam shell, dutifully guarding its chick pea gems. Suffice to say it doesn’t look like that for long; divinely spicy, it is demolished in minutes – I barely get my fork in – as my other half declares, “It’s up there with some of my best starters ever.” High praise – and he’s only had one beer.
I opt for prawn hotpot (£4.95), which sounds intriguing but isn’t at all stew-like as the name might suggest. This is a delicious bundle of spicy, lemony prawns cooked in a mango chutney “Tok” sauce, which gives it a deeply warming sweet and sour flavour. In addition, the waiter brings a gravy boat of vibrant green mint sauce, which has carrot and lemon coriander in the mix and packs a serious punch. Perhaps not for the faint-hearted, we find it an excellent addition to two very good starters. It’s so good, I even eat the normally ignored salad cradling my prawns.
The bar has clearly been set high for my husband’s main course and it doesn’t disappoint. He has gone for Sobzi Persi (£9.95), which is apparently a traditional Persian wedding dish, comprising mixed vegetables and lentils cooked with pineapple, garlic, ginger and mustard seeds. Hot and sour to taste, this is a spicy one and is declared excellent. The side dish of Bombay Aloo (£4.95) is a much smokier version of the potato dish than we are used to, while the pilau rice (£3.25) has a lovely cardamom base to it.
I head down the fish route with an East Indian fish curry (£17.95). Each meal has a recommended side dish named on the menu and in this case it is stir-fried vegetables (£4.95), chopped root veg in a dense, medium-spicy sauce that, although tasty, I don’t feel adds that much to the curry.
Fillets of tilapia (a lean, white fish that on its own doesn’t carry much flavour) are delivered in a ginger, garlic and coriander pesto sauce dotted with petit pois. This is certainly delicious, the fish firm and perfectly cooked, the ideal partner to the rich sauce that is more spicy than hot, but it does seem a little on the pricey side for just one type of fish.
We mop it all up with a Kulcha Naan (£2.95), which tastes like a creamier, slightly more dense version of regular naan bread with sesame seeds on top. It is light, springy and utterly moreish.
By now we are the sole diners, and despite the fact that our taxi takes an age to arrive, we are not rushed from the table or made to feel we are holding anyone up.
Our bill comes to £74.80, with food totalling £58.85. Fine flavours in lovely surroundings, there is much to like here. This isn’t the kind of place to round off an evening once the pub shuts, this is Indian cuisine to savour – I do hope we have to wait a little longer for a table the next time we visit.
Main courses £9.95-£18.95
ALSO ON THE MENU
I liked the look of the Seafood Deluxe set menu, which seems good value at £49.95 for two. Comprising starters of Prawn Puri and Salmon Tikka, main dishes of East Indian fish curry and Mazader Trout Beguni, plus sides of Sag Prawn and cheesy peas, and a choice of rice and naan, it also includes sorbet and coffee.