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
  • Service - The staff and pace of a meal can make or break a meal out.
  • Value - From the food on the plate to service and surroundings, we check that you get what you're paying for.
August 31, 2015

Spitaki, Edinburgh, restaurant review

Edinburgh's Greek Taverna Spitaki does the simpler things in life very well, finds Gaby Soutar

Sometimes, when I’m extra famished, my hunger takes the form of a spirit animal. When I visited this new Greek restaurant, it was post spin class, my legs were wibbling like corned beef coloured blancmanges and my face resembled a ripe damson. I practically had to grope my way along the pavement, like Velma in Scooby-Doo when she loses her specs, because my vision had gone all wonky. Very low blood sugar.

In this ravenous state, this sensation became a daemon (sort-of like Pan in His Dark Materials). Except I did better than a silly pine marten and got a roaring phoenix. Woo! Convenient that, because apparently it’s the national animal of Greece.

This place, on the corner of East Claremont Street, is in the style of a classic taverna, with blue and white livery and the prerequisite props of a little olive tree and a bowl of lemons inside the door.
On a Saturday lunchtime it was pretty dead, apart from a few regulars up at the bar. In fact, we seemed to be the only ones eating.

Their menu features all the usual Greek crowd-pleasers, from houmous (£3) and marinated Kalamata olives (£2) to good old kalamari (£7.50), spanakopita (£6.50) and gigantes (butter beans cooked in the oven with tomato and herbs, £6.50).

My phoenix, who we’ll call Jim, over-ordered, of course. (I should have left him outside, tied to the railings). The first of many plates to land was a large dish of melitzanosalata (£3) – pulped aubergine polka-dotted by chilli seeds, with a pungent smoky taste that was on the cusp of being acrid (but in a strangely addictive way).

A large helping of taramasalata (£3.50) was suitably whipped in texture, fresh and creamy, with plenty of lemon juice in the fish egg mix. We scooped up these dips with bits of toasted pitta (£1.20 for a basket). NB You will need way more than one basketful of this with every dip that you order.

From our mezethes (or meze) selection, the cheese saganaki (£5) was as filthy and salty as you’d expect from three fried matchboxes of breadcrumbed kefalotiri cheese; patates (£4) were ovals of evenly tanned fried potato slices, with a whole load of dried oregano, the texture of fag ash, dumped over the top.

While, courgettes (£4.50) consisted of stubs of this vegetable – lightly floured, more frying involved – served with a chunky tzatziki. All good, but Jim’s flames had only been slightly snuffed.

Our second round of food was meaty, with four small and charred lamb chops (£8) that we stripped down to the bone, and two fat and roughly hewn keftedes (£7), both of which were served with more tzatziki and more sliced patates. The prawn saganaki (£6.50) were also slightly forgettable, as the few nibs of fish and feta had been rather drowned in a vat’s worth of parsley topped tomato pulp. An olive oil doused octopus (£8.50) tentacle – as elegantly curved as a calligraphy serif – was meaty and soft, with raw red onion, more dried oregano, parsley and lemon.

Puddings (£3.25 each) are chalked onto a mini Tanqueray blackboard by the bar. They were still in the process of baking the bougatsa and ravani cake, so we went for the remaining options – a serviceable warm chocolate brownie with chocolate ice-cream and a pleasantly chewy and honey riddled wedge of baklava. Not bad, but, as the national animal of Greece, what do you think Jim?

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“The food is unremarkable I guess, but also unpretentious and homely,” he said, “I’m happy as I was in the mood for that kind of stuff anyway. I may look impressive, but I have a taste for the simple things in life.”

And with that, he was extinguished.

How much?
Lunch for two, excluding drinks, £57.70

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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