Scotsman Review
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  • Ambience - It's important that a restaurant is inviting. We rate the decor, comfort and atmosphere.
  • Drink - Is the wine or cocktail list as exciting as the food, or does it fall short? Same goes for soft drinks. 
  • Food - We judge dishes on flavour, but also use of produce, cooking skill and presentation
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Ambiance
8/10
Food
8.5/10
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0%
January 12, 2018

Aurora, Edinburgh, restaurant review

Don't be fooled by the humble cafe exterior, as the food at Aurora is a natural phenomenon, says Gaby Soutar

My mum once took a flight to see the Aurora Borealis.

When the plane arrived at the perfect height and latitude, anticipation was at peak level, with all the passengers pressing their snouts against the window for a once-in-a-lifetime view. However, they couldn’t switch the cabin lights off. Oops.

Mission aborted, return to base, money back.

This titchy Leith cafe, opposite a tanning salon and The Tartan Blanket Co, has named itself after this natural spectacle, or maybe the Roman goddess of the dawn, either of which seems kind of idiosyncratic, since it’s so undramatic looking.

Inside, it’s nice enough – comfortable, simple, with lots of blonde wood, and steamed up windows on a icy day.

There’s an interesting sounding evening menu, but the day version is just as appealing.

Apparently the chef has come from Salt Cafe in Morningside and, as much as I love that place, the menu never quite draws me in.

This is better, especially for oeuf-aholics, since there’s a list of EGGS every which way, from benedict and shakshuka to royale and Florentine.

There’s also a small list of sweet breakfast-y things, and I really love that they offer Argyle oysters (£2 each), apropos of not much at all. My sister had one as an amuse bouche.

Served on ice cubes, this slippery beast, with its Polo-mint-white lined shell, came with a little pot of shallot and one of Bloody Mary vinaigrette.

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Extreme decadence on a Wednesday lunchtime.

We followed this up with three mains and a couple of sides to share.

The best of these was probably the lamb kefta (£9), which featured a lovely spiced pita bread topped with two large hunks of cumin-spiced and dense meat, then a layer of Greek yogurt, onion and finely chopped gherkin sauce and, on the side, a pot of harissa injected coleslaw.

The pork cheek and barley ravioli (£11) was also lovely, with three sturdy parcels of pale minced meat dunked into a golden chicken consommé speckled with carrot and celery mirepoix.

There was more hearty happiness to come, with the pair of average-snowball-sized, terracotta-coloured and salmon-y fish arancini (£10).

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This elegant offering came with a pretty Parmesan lattice over the top, like a Dynasty femme fatale’s lace veil, as well as a rich lemongrass-y bisque and a bank of salsa verde, for a Thailand meets Italy via France all-over-the-place celebration.

Also, as the official president of the Tuber Fan Club, the campfire potatoes (£3.25) are my pin-ups.

Served in a pool of butter, this clutch of five skin-on pebbles were smoked and scattered with dill, with a pot of fresh and sour kefir on the side for dipping. Heaven.

We also enjoyed our other side of chia-seed-speckled steamed broccoli (£3.25), which was topped with red chilli hoops.

Oh, and we had my four year old niece with me, and these young ‘uns must insist on eating too.

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They were very kind to her and said they could do ANYTHING on the menu as a smaller kids size.

She went for classic fish, chips and peas (£5), which was inhaled in seconds, as if she was an orca Hoovering up herring on Blue Planet II (which, ironically, she cried at, because she was sad for the fish).

This incident was kind of unusual, as the Soutar guzzling genes haven’t kicked in yet and she will often lose interest quite quickly. Not today.

To finish, we could have gone for one of the brunchy options like creamy coconut barley with pineapple and lime marmalade (£4) but, instead, we pointed at a cake that was under a glass cloche on the counter.

It turned out to be a Victoria sponge (£2.75), and a decent one, with a poppy seed freckled frosting and a jammy middle.

Their other pudding choice – an icing sugar dusted chocolate fondant (£2.75) – didn’t have the desired runny centre, but I can be philosophical about that, since you can’t (metaphorically) expect to see the aurora borealis AND get an egg on top.

Still, this unexpectedly fab place will get you very close.

Aurora

187 Great Junction Street Edinburgh

(0131-554 5537, www.auroraedinburgh.co.uk)

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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