Great service, lovely food and great value - Lynn O'rourke finds Edinburgh's Yeni Meze Bar to be her kind of place

A FRIEND had been telling me about a Turkish/Middle Eastern restaurant in Edinburgh she had been to – great service, lovely food, good value. It sounds like my kind of place, but I cannot picture it. A quick search reveals it to be Yeni Meze Bar, offering a “pick ’n’ mix menu of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern meze”. I still can’t place it, so book a table and seek it out.
I arrange to meet foodie friends Alison and Helen there – they don’t remember ever noticing it either – but crossing from George Street heading towards Stockbridge and looking up to the right there it is, perched at the top of a flight of stone stairs. It turns out to be the former Nargile restaurant and is still run by the same Turkish-Scottish family, having had a revamp and name change in 2011 (there are also two restaurants in Aberdeen).
Inside it is all pale tones, a large mirrored wall and framed prints – there is nothing suggesting the Med or Middle East. It feels a little impersonal. However, there is no shortage of warmth on the service front. Staff are friendly and helpful, taking time to explain the menu and put up with a serious amount of deliberation from our party of three.

“soon the table is filling up with little plates of joy”

The recommendation is to choose three or four sharing dishes per person and take it from there, but for some reason this is beyond us – we flounder in a sea of menu indecision. Luckily there are banquet options (don’t you just love when that decision-making pressure is lifted?) where you can opt for Vezir Sofrasi, which is a selection of hot and cold meze for £15 per person, or Yeni Sofrasi, which is the meze selection plus three larger plates including chicken Iskender, kebabs and veggie Imam Bayildi for £20 per person – we instantly decide on the larger option.
The “set” menu is flexible and will include any particular meze you like and if there is anything you don’t like, an alternative will be given. We choose a few and let the staff decide on the rest, and soon the table is filling up with little plates of joy. The hummus is a cloud of chickpea, tahini, garlic and lemon, delicious slathered on the warmest, softest slices of pitta, while Shaksuka’s aubergine cubes are mixed in with garlicky tomato – finger-lickin’ good. The bulgur wheat tabbouleh, with its minty, lemony dressing, has us oohing and aahing about the freshness, while the neat little dolma have the most aromatic rice filling tightly packed into papoose-like vine leaves. Dana sogush is a new dish to all of us, with thin strips of marinated steak served on a fresh, slightly spicy tomato, cucumber and red onion salad, while kizartma is a winning combo of peppers and tomato topped with garlic yoghurt.
So far, so delicious, and the dishes keep coming. Next up are thin rolls of soft and yielding breaded calamari drizzled in chilli mayonnaise. Sucuk turns out to be slices of grilled sausage, which look nondescript but have a wonderful smoky taste and a heat that creeps up on you. Our filo pastry borek parcels are stuffed with feta and are pleasant enough but don’t have anyone raving. I had requested falafel, but the little chickpea and herb croquettes are a tad dry and crumbly for my liking, although they taste fine, and a scoop of pitta and mayo soon mop them up. The patatas – smoked, paprika-seasoned potatoes – have a hot, sweetish tang to them and are a hit with everyone. Everything we try tastes fresh and although olive oil is clearly playing a major role, each dish tastes light.
We all have a favourite – Helen opts for the soft and dreamy aubergine, the zingy tabbouleh gets Alison’s vote, while the dolma is top trump for me.
We wash it down with a touch of holiday fun in the form of a bottle of rose, pinot grigio blush, which at £16.50 feels like a bargain and works with the variety of tastes.
It is about this stage that we all start to wonder whether we may have bitten off more than we can chew. However, as the three larger plates arrive, we manfully tuck in.
The platter of chicken Iskender (£7.95) resembles a smooth-backed hedgehog – a well-packed mound of layered chicken strips, little squares of pitta, garlic yoghurt and herby tomato sauce. It is supremely moreish. The three dainty kebabs (£7.95-£8.95) are perfectly cooked with the smoky taste a nice contrast to the deeper, richer sauce of the Iskender. The Imam Bayildi (£5.50) is baked aubergine slices teamed with tomato and onion – a simple dish that balances out some of the stronger flavours.
We finish off with a nut baklava (£3.75) to share (we don’t want to overdo things), which comprises three neat squares of compact filo pastry layers packed with nuts and syrup – we forgo the ice-cream and virtuously sip fresh mint tea instead.
We all agree this is somewhere we will return to and with a bill totalling £99.75 for three with £63.75 on food, we can afford not to wait too long.

(www.yenirestaurant.com)

HOW MUCH?
Lunch speciality sandwiches and wraps, £6.95; three meze dishes, £9.95
Dinner meze, £3.50-£5.95; specialities, £5.50-£13.95; banquet meals (minimum two people) selection of meze, £15 (pp); selection of meze plus Iskender and kebabs, £20 (pp) Puddings £2.25-£4.95

ALSO ON THE MENU

You can, of course, skip the meze and go straight to the main courses, which as well as traditional meat dishes also have a decent offering of veg and fish-based options. The Biber Dolmasi (£6.50) caught my eye with whole roast peppers stuffed with couscous, tomato, black olives and feta. Firinda Balik (£9.50) is baked cod loin on a bed of spinach with red pepper sauce. Balik Koftesi (£6.50) is pan-fried sardine and potato fishcakes that are topping my next must-try list.

Yeni Meze Bar, Edinburgh, restaurant review
80%Overall Score

About The Author

Lynn O'Rourke

Lynn O'Rourke is atHome editor at Scotland on Sunday and a lifestyle editor for Spectrum magazine. She has been working for the magazine since 2003, editing the weekly property and interiors pages, and more recently also covering food and drink, travel and lifestyle news.

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