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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October 13, 2017

Saboteur, Edinburgh, restaurant review

Saboteur is great, but it's no competition for its sister restaurant, Ting Thai Caravan, says Gaby Soutar

They say that celebs like Kate Moss, Snoopy and the Queen retain their public appeal since they generally remain silent and enigmatic.

This new Vietnamese restaurant – owned by Malcolm Innes, the restaurateur behind Ting Thai Caravan, The Outsider and pizza joint Wildmanwood – has a similar approach to communication.

There is no PR to send news and menus, no bookings either.

They don’t seem that bothered about justifying themselves with social media updates or websites, and I don’t think it’s because they’re Luddites.

That’s all slightly annoying when you want to peruse their offerings, but also tantalisingly alluring.

Saboteur has wooden blinds on the windows and dark signage, like some kind of speakeasy.

I doubt they even want anyone to review them, but I went along anyway, since, for the immediate future anyway, it remains a free country.

As the walls inside feature what look like graphic film stills, I thought their name might turn out to be a celluloid reference to some obscure flick that might have been showing around the same time as I was buying my ticket for Despicable Me.

But, no, according to the waitress, it’s so-called because the owner thought his newest restaurant might sabotage the success of his other place, Ting Thai Caravan, just a few doors along at 8-9 Teviot Place.

Like TTC, there are some communal tables here, and the nicely designed day menu is bitty, with lighter bites and bigger stuff.

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Dishes arrive as they’re ready.

Our tofu (£2.20) from the Small Box and Sides list was OK, but not the most auspicious start. The positive is that these oily chunks reminded me, texturally, of fried bread, but, unlike that Seventies breakfast favourite, they were slightly bland.

We did love the bao (£6 for two), with creepingly hot fried chicken patties, mayo, sriracha and crunchy slaw in two pale buns, like Mickey Mouse’s gloves.

I had a bad experience with these a few weeks ago (see my recent review of Dai Pai), and this re-ignited my love for the genre.

Though rather watery, we were also impressed by the soupy duck curry (£7.90), with lychees bobbing, like surfacing narwhal, in an Uluru coloured coconut broth.

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The texture of the savoury pancake that is banh xeo (£6.50) divided the crowd somewhat.

“Blubbery” said one, “squelchy” said another.

Perhaps you have to acquire a yen for the texture provided by this porous turmeric-spiked crêpe, which contained a mixture of uniformly squishy seafood – squid tubes, giant flaccid mussels and prawns, as well as bean sprouts and sriracha.

Meh. Maybe if it’d been piping hot we would’ve enjoyed it more.

We weren’t hugely sold on the small box of ca o, or fish balls (£3.80), threaded onto kebab sticks. They didn’t taste of much except white fish. However, they were lifted by an amazing sauce, which reminded me of the one that comes with my favourite kai look-keur son-in-law deep fried egg at Ting Thai Caravan.

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The chicken pho (£6.50) here is wholesome and soothing – Vietnamese penicillin, with a golden stock, chook breast, rice noodles, bean sprouts, cherry tomatoes, coriander and some sweet sauce that tasted a bit like hoisin.

A winner.

Our only red meat dish was the thit lon ham (£6.80), which featured clods of very fatty slow-cooked pork belly and saturated bits of tofu in a sweet and nutty conker brown soy sauce.

Another soul food dish.

There aren’t any puddings at Saboteur at the moment, so we walked down Middle Meadow Walk to the hidden back street take-away branch of Soderberg (32 Simpson Loan), where we cooled off with cookies and cream ice-cream, and mango and white chocolate sorbet (£2.50 a scoop, or £4 for three).

After this palate-cleansing session, like oranges at half-time, I could have gone back to Saboteur for more.

Though, to be honest, I think I might be more likely to gravitate towards Ting Thai Caravan. After all, as Snoopy never said, everyone loves a deep fried egg.


(19-20 Teviot Place, Edinburgh, 0131-623 0384)




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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