Scotsman Review
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July 12, 2019

Kukina, Edinburgh, restaurant review

Apart from the woman in the window, Kukina isn't that great an addition to Leith Walk, says Gaby Soutar

The best thing I ever saw on Leith Walk was a guy and his staffy in matching gold chains and black Adidas tracksuits.

But now, halfway down, there’s something even better than the semi-canine version of Run DMC.

You’ll find a woman in a window, sitting on the floor and kneading pats of dough, before rolling them out with a long thin wooden pin, brushing them with oil and cooking on a hot griddle.

Don’t worry, she’s not just a random, or a performance artist (well, Leith has been gentrified).
Her job is to make gozleme – a sort of Turkish flatbread or pancake, made with yogurt, and the street food speciality of this new restaurant.

Watching her is rather spellbinding, but we tried not to gawp like she was Edinburgh Zoo’s Tian Tian.
Instead, we bagged our table in this rather upmarket-looking space, with its rhino grey walls, copper light fittings and lanterns on tables.

In the former premises of Polish Mini Market, it’s owned by the people behind Artisan Coffee (at no 274 Leith Walk) and Best Kebab (no 256), and the menu mainly consists of this bread, or meal packages featuring it.

If only we’d dropped by after 5pm, when you can get the Kukina Classic (£14 per person), which features not only gozleme but also Turkish sausage, feta borek, grilled halloumi, kofte and other meze.

For lunch, it’s a bit limited.

“You don’t even have any halloumi?” I asked, on behalf of my squeaky cheese-loving friend, but it was a no.

Instead, there’s a choice of their speciality bread on its own, or you can go for the gozleme meal for two (£17.95), which includes two breads and four meze. We did that.

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As there was none of their lahmacun (lamb, according to them) variety available, we chose a filling of spinach and feta, as well as beef and onion, and chucked an additional potato (£7.90) in there too.

These crepe-like offerings are chopped into bookmarker-sized strips, and piled up alongside a salad of leaves and cherry tomatoes.

Although we’d watched Window Wonder Woman being relatively generous, our fillings were a little sparse and patchy, especially with the spinachy one’s feta contingent, but the beefy mix was nicely spiced, and the crushed potato, though a bit raw in a few of the tiny tattie shards, was threaded with chilli heat.

Still, the actual bread was good – pale with tortoiseshell markings, soft, bouncy and epidermis fine. They are especially nice rolled up, like sleeping bags being stashed for a camping trip.

However, our accompanying meze were a bit of a downer.

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They came with a couple more triangles of bread on a board, plus two small pats of herby butter and about six dinky olives rattling around in an oversized dish. There was also a pot of fridge cold aubergine, with a texture like wet mashed banana, and tomato and garlic in the mix.

Plus, we had red beans with pickles, a decent dill-y and chunky tzatziki, and cubes of beetroot in yogurt.

They were OK, but all slightly lacking in pizzazz.

Guess what pudding is? Yep, more gozleme (though there is also baklava, £4.90). The production line never stops.

This time it was filled with banana and lashings of Nutella (£6.50). Anyway, this sweet option was nice enough, and left us with faces and clothes inadvertently painted in chocolate camouflage, like Apocalypse Now vs Willy Wonka.

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We also enjoyed their thick triangle of chewy and straw-coloured baklava, served with a couple of blobs of whipped cream. It was mega sticky-bottomed, Pritt Sticked to the plate and sooking up the syrup like the hem of a pair of flares on a rainy day.

Nice puddings, but some of the savouries felt a bit cobbled together. I suppose this kind of extremely casual cafe-ish food seems a bit incongruous in fancy surroundings.

Anyway, word on the walk is that they closed the kitchen for refurbishment the day after my visit, so maybe I caught them at a bad time.

Perhaps you’ll have better luck, or, at the very least, have fun window shopping.

Kukina Edinburgh

235 Leith Walk, Edinburgh  (07517 097000)


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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