According to spooky lore, vampires can’t come into your house unless invited.
Sometime I feel like a bloodsucker, since the middlemen that are PRs will ask me to visit restaurants, but not their actual owners. However, this place, whose chef has worked at various eateries including the Michelin-starred Tamarind in London, is one of a handful who have sent me a very keen email, requesting a visit from Count Soutar.
That shows a certain confidence in the food, I think. Anyway, I sent them my stock reply: Sorry, I can’t accept freebie meals in return for a review, but I will consider visiting you incognito. I left it as a surprise as to whether I’d be wearing an invisibility cloak, or would arrive as a red-eyed Hammer Horror bat.
With an original branch in Cambridge, this Indian restaurant opened at the end of last year on Edinburgh’s Haymarket Terrace. Beyond the golf boutique and sewing machine outlet, this street used to be a bit of a desert for food and shopping, but is suddenly dotted with independent businesses – a bike shop, tattoo parlour and healthy food cafe, Grams. You’ll find Navadhanya, meaning nine grains, beside the Apex Haymarket. Although this hotel has its own restaurant, Metro, its overspill might account for how hoaching Navadhanya was on a Tuesday night, usually the professional eater outer’s graveyard shift.
There’s a lengthy food list, with options for wine flights, tasting menus and affordable set stuff for those on a budget. We stuck to the à la carte, with starters of barwan lachar paneer (£6.95) and tandoori grill salmon (£7.95). Both were great. One featured two yellow bubble-edge blocks of firm cheese sandwiching a sweet fig mulch, with a couple of purées underneath, one of which seemed to be beetroot, the other a smudge of verdant coriander pulp.
The fragrant fillet of fish, which hadn’t been dried out in the tandoor, was crusted by a dark green and toasty tasting layer of roasted cumin and mustard. It came with a simple slick of jammy mango purée, which provided a sweetness to lift the more mossy flavours.
When it came to main courses, apart from a bit of a floppy skin fail, I was dead impressed by my artfully presented sea bass (£15.50). From the bottom up, it featured a clingily textured gingery and coconutty turmeric-hued Alleppey sauce, a cumin seed spotted crushed cassava cake, two hunks of fish and a sort of finely cubed mango kachumber on the top.
I would also like a return ticket to the railway lamb curry (£13.95), which was served in a balti dish. It featured a sauce that was somewhat flatter, spicing wise, than my well rounded Alleppey version, but it was a grower, with a late onset chilli heat. The meat itself was as soft as a chinchilla’s ear lobe, and there was lots of it.
We’d also ordered one helping of decent rice (£3.50), though I didn’t really need any of it since my cassava cake had provided enough starchy carb.
I do love a peshwari naan (£3.95) and this restaurant’s version is nutty, sweet and hot, with a surface as bubbly as a hormonal teen’s chin. While, the crunchy edged garlic and coriander version (£3.95) was sweaty with butter or ghee.
We could’ve stopped there, but decided to steam ahead with a Navadhanya dessert platter (£9.99), even though scientists have recently disproved that a little of what you fancy does you good. This plate featured four of their puddings, rendered in miniature. From clockwise was a petite and syrup saturated, though slightly over fired gulab jamun, then a castle of dense and butter yellow mango kulfi, a pile of medicinally saffrony carrot halwa, and a swiftly deflating blob of milk chocolate mousse. Pleasant enough.
The kulfi won.
So, yeah, much like vampires, once you’ve invited them in, restaurant reviewers don’t need to be asked back, they just visit whenever they want.
Just as well really, as I do like this place.
Dinner for two, excluding drinks £65.74
88 Haymarket Terrace, Edinburgh
(0131 281 8187, www.Navadhanya-edinburgh.com)