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Laila, Edinburgh, restaurant review

This restaurant has style as well as substance says Gaby Soutar.

Published: April 26, 2021
Categories:
Food: 
7.5/10
Ambience: 
8/10

My granny used to cut her head out of photographs.

I’ve inherited her self-consciousness. That’s why I’ll never be an Instagram star.

I’m sandwiched between a couple of them when I queue outside this new place.

It’s owned by the people behind Hanam’s, PomegranatePomegranate ExpressSouq and the capital’s only 100 per cent halal fish and chips shop, Deep Sea on Nicolson Street.

Their newest venture is a revamp of their olive-grove-themed venue, Laila’s Bistro, into a trendy Middle Eastern brunch joint.

Marketing consultant and executive chef, Sabrina Gali, has been responsible for the new look, branding and menu.

She’s created the perfect backdrop for a portrait.

The girl in front of me gets her boyfriend to take a pic of her posing, framed by the marshmallow pink restaurant exterior, with its cascading swags of faux flowers and ferns.

As the only middle-aged person in the queue, I’m not going to take a selfie. The last time I did, the camera was angled so I resembled Tubbs in League of Gentlemen.

My lunch has been pre-booked for collection, but the first thing to arrive is the unicorn latte (£4.50), which I sip as I’m waiting.

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There’s a lid on the cup, so I can’t really see this coffee-free drink, which, apparently, is made from butterfly pea flower, maple syrup and cinnamon.

However, since I’ve already seen it on Instagram, I know that it’s Smurf blue and covered with rainbow sprinkles.

It tastes balmy and sweet, and I sook the half-dissolved miniature “horns” through the drinking hole.

I’m reminded of Pablo Escobar, who stapled a fake horn to a white horse, so one of his children could have a pet unicorn.

The horse subsequently died. Happy days. Still, no equines, mythical or not, were harmed in the making of this drink.

Eventually, lunch is presented, with a free brownie to apologise for the wait (it was only 10 minutes late, and I enjoyed the people watching activity).

It came in boutique-y pink paper bags, as if this place were Laduree.

I had wanted to try their signature brunch dish of Aleppo eggs (£12.50) with garlic, herbed green yoghurt and Aleppo butter, but I didn’t think they’d survive the car journey and I’m a bit squeamish about cold poachers.

Another day, when we’re able to sit inside.

Instead, we went for a couple of their all-day pittas, which come with paprika-dusted skinny fries.

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There’s the buttermilk chicken (£11.50) with Aleppo chilli, mayo, shredded white cabbage, rocket, crumbled feta and tomato.

We’d thought, with the restaurant’s pink livery, this might be a dainty thing, but it was trucker-style hefty.

The sepia-coloured wrap was robust enough to hold onto its crispy, smoky, crunchy, garlicky and heat-spiked contents.

We also tried the grilled lamb pita (£13.50), which was filled with slabs of a dense and salty kofta-ish mixture, along with a mint pesto, feathery dill and pistachios.

Our two sides were definitely unnecessary, but someone had posted a picture of them on Instagram, and I must be more suggestible than I thought.

The lightly battered halloumi fries (£6) were quite oily, but lovely nonetheless.

Their lardy shame was slicked with an Oil of Ulay pink mayo and a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds.

While, their green goddess hummus (£6.50) was as pretty as it’d looked in another photograph.

I wanted to slather it on like a face pack, and stick a couple of the radish slices on my eyes.

Maybe eternal youth WILL be mine.

It was a herby and extremely green tasting mixture, topped with a few whole chickpeas, chillies and amaranth sprigs.

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However, we weren’t sure what to do with it, beyond dipping a few of our skinny fries in there. Maybe we should have got some more pitta.

The black sesame vanilla cake (£6.95) was a pretty thing, with thin strata of colour - black, beige, red, then black again, like a striped school tie - on top of a chocolatey biscuit base.

It was very subtly flavoured - nutty and only faintly sugary. Too healthy-tasting for my obscenely sweet tastes.

The pair of inch thick buttermilk pancakes (£11.50) came with halved strawberries, mint leaves, an intensely perfumed rose syrup, which I was tempted to dab behind my ears and on my wrists, and a puff of pink candyfloss, which quickly vanished, like cherry blossoms on the Meadows.

Ironically, though, the halva and chocolate brownie (£4) we’d got for free was easily my favourite of all three.

Very fancy, and it seems that Laila is more than just a photo opportunity for non-camera-shy humans (and their social media savvy dogs).

Laila

62 Cockburn Street, Edinburgh

How much? 

Lunch for two, excluding drinks, £55.9

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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