Get with the in crowd and visit Edinburgh's new Souq restaurant, says Gaby Soutar

You’re either innie, or you’re outie.

I suppose only people with the right kind of appropriately lint-gathering belly button need ever apply to be a belly dancer.

If it’s convex, rather than concave, it might poke someone’s eye out, plus you can’t put a big fat ruby in there, or a bullet, like Saida in The Man with the Golden Gun.

This Middle Eastern eatery – the newest venture from the team behind Edinburgh favourites Hanam’s, Pomegranate and Laila’s Bistro – has a presumably navel-y gifted resident dancer, who does her wiggly snake-hipped jingly-jangly Shakira-Shakira-hips-don’t-lie-esque thing here every Saturday night.

I bet it’s great here of an evening, with the cascading mosaic covered lights dripping from the high Georgian ceiling.

(They’re here since, as its name might suggest, this space also functions as a shop, with shelves of terracotta tagines, babouches, and the occasional price tag hanging from those chandeliers).

We, however, visited on a wet Wednesday, when there were only two other tables in the huge space, which may also have had something to do with major roadworks outside, making for zilch parking. (Traffic update: By the time you read this, they will be gone).

While grazing from a bowl of gratis olives, our group of three ordered a bunch of mezze and mains to share, including the set of dips (£9.95) to serve two.

All three of these olive-oil drizzled pastes, including a thick baba ganoush and a tangy whipped feta, were decent, though the rich and salty paprika dusted hummus took the podium. It was a whole different animal from the supermarket grout you spread on your office sarnies.

These offerings came with four sturdy door-stoppers of flatbread, each the size of a clutch bag.

We’d also been low on imagination when it came to the hot mezze, and gone for another preselected mixed platter (£11).

My fave part of this plateful was probably the undergrowth-y and slightly acidic malfouf – spiced rice wrapped in a baggy and transparent shroud of veiny cabbage leaf.

There was also a pair of dolma – nice enough – and the russet-coloured falafel were a little crusty and dry (aren’t they always?), but satisfyingly earthy.

This came with yet another set of the three hero dips and, thankfully more bread. There had also been something called kulicha on our hot mezze list – a Kurdish pastry – but it was awol, though all the additional unexpected bits more than compensated.

From their selection of fatayer (flatbread pizzas), we went for the za’atar (£6.95) version, which was a half moon, divided into four, of sesame seed and thyme sprinkled crunchy billowing loveliness, which was accompanied by a pot of pulpy chilli hot red pepper dip and a creamily cooling labneh-ish one.

Their house speciality of chicken and preserved lemon tagine (£12) was rather special too, with soft meat and potato clods, olives and a rich tomato-ey sauce, with a side bowl of the herby couscous, which was as fluffy as a newborn and freshly blow-dried chick.

There was also a vibrant fattoush salad (£5.50), with Lego-brick sized crouton blocks doused in something sweet and balsamic-y, plus tiny nibs of radish, green and black olives, spring onion and tomato.

“Spoil yourself!” it said alongside the listing for chocolate covered dates (£2.95), but they had run out of them, sob, so we went for the ma’amoul (£3.95). These were the Middle Eastern equivalent of the humble fig roll, with a jammy layer of fruit inside a puck-like biscuit-y dome.

I wanted a cup of tea. We also had a slice of baklava cheesecake (£5.95), with a tower of smooth vanilla, honey dripping down its sides, and flakes of crumbled pastry.

Pretty good, so when it comes to this place, I’d count myself as an innie (and not in the belly button sense of the word).

Souq

57-59 South Clerk Street, Edinburgh

(0131-667 6601, www.souq-edinburgh.com)

 

 

Souq, Edinburgh, restaurant review
Food70%
Ambience70%
70%Overall Score
Reader Rating: (14 Votes)
82%

About The Author

Gaby Soutar

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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