Beat the January blues, and get globetrotting to Rustom, Edinburgh's curry heaven, says Cat Thomson

January is traditionally the month when travel companies bombard you with enticing adverts, which sows the seeds of a desire to journey to the latest must-see destinations.

They are experts at tempting you to part with your hard-earned cash. All the while keeping their brand at the front of your mind, as you click for that once in a lifetime flight or a relaxing week in the sun.

Outside it’s still dark and wintery, so the mere thought of an exotic experience à la Michael Palin certainly appeals.

However a quick glance at the bank balance shows that 2019 is not going to involve anything more than a staycation.

Sadly I’m not in the market for spending a month in Mumbai, gallivanting to Goa or even heading off on a wee jolly to Jaipur.  Instead I need to content myself with the joys of Joppa, Gogar or even Haymarket.

So for our first family food outing of the year, we are off to Edinburgh for a full-blown Indian and Pakistan adventure, at Rustom, on Grosvenor Street.

The venue promises to transport you to Lahore and Mumbai with their aromas and flavours, while impressing you with their majestic décor recalling the dining rooms of Mughal palaces and guaranteeing that a meal there will be memorable every time.

So our party gladly packs up our bags and passports and heads into town, where we are treated as royalty on arrival.

The interior has us all agog, thanks to statement chandeliers and tasteful Jaali, or decorative lattice screens. While scanning the menu we make a vow to try something new, while scoffing a predictable pile of poppadoms (£1 each) and spice pickles (£2.50).

I head straight on to the streets of Bombay with my starter, aloo tikka (£3.95) which are fluffy potato flat cakes, lightly spiced and served with salad and extra hot chilli sauce.

They bring the heat of an Indian summer to my cheeks. Flushed with my taste success, my complexion thankfully returns to normal with tiny sips of heavenly mango lassi (£3.50).

Junior has plumped for malai paneer tikka (£4.45), hearty chunks of sturdy paneer cheese flavoured with a blend of in-house spices and a cooling mint yogurt sauce, which gains universal approval as everyone dives in.

The fella opts for crispy masala baingan (£4.45)– these are deep fried aubergine shards, marinated to perfection and served with mint and tangy tamarind sauce.

Buoyed by the starter success, we peruse the main course selection, sidestepping the usual staples of korma, tikka masala or jalfrezi.

We are all heading off piste into the culinary unknown.

The fella having recently watched Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom, boldly suggests that he would like to try maghaz, lamb’s brains pan-cooked in special spices, “a melt in the mouth experience”.

Are you sure? asks our charming waiter.
Have you had them before?

This query prompts a quick change of heart to get back on the right tack with the highly recommended aloo matar keema (£11.95).

Almost a Scottish dish with an Asian twist, this features lamb mince curry with potatoes and peas, smothered with a flavourful sauce which disappears in good style, swallied down with a pint of Kingfisher lager (£4.50).

I opt for aloo anda (£8.45), a traditional dish made from eggs and tatties, cooked to sumptuous perfection, with the addition of the complementary spiced tomatoes and coriander.

Rustom Edinburgh

Aloo Anda

Meanwhile, Junior has ordered a protein hit of tadka dal (£8.45)– chunky spiced lentils imbued with tastes galore from the Indian subcontinent, complete with a mini courgette floating in the ocean of spicy pulses.

It’s served with the finest garlic naan (£3.50)we have ever tasted and generous pulao  (£3.95) and egg rice dishes (£3.90), which ensure we won’t need to eat again for a week.

So far our quiet dinner is a million miles from the hustle and bustle of an Indian market.

When travelling the world, you can pass several hours people-watching.

Nothing beats a good old street barney, which is normally hampered by my lack of language comprehension.

However there are no such language barriers here, and when, dramatically, a table of ten cancels with no notice, there follows a series of phone calls and a tense stand-off and of Bollywood proportions.

Thankfully peace and calm is restored with the miscreants oblivious to the food treasures they have missed out on.

Reluctantly moving on we share a portion of the Indian dessert hot gulab jamun (£4.50).

The dish stars hot spoonfuls of rose-imbued sponge, served with a dense vanilla ice cream and tropical sauce. I sip a glass of Kahwah (£1.95); cardamom-flavoured green tea which cleanses the palate.

As our worldly food experience shows, you can taste first class flavours without breaking the bank – and true to their promise, our dining experience was memorable.

Rustom Edinburgh

2 Grosvenor Street Edinburgh EH12 5EG
(0131-337 7920) rustomrestaurant.co.uk

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About The Author

Catriona Thomson

Catriona is Deputy Picture Editor at the Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday.

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