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Going out : Hot and bothered a at lunch date; EATING OUT: Ignite: A CURRY AT LUNCH TIME SHOULDN'T BE HARD TO FIND IN EDINBURGH - BUT TAM GOT THE IMPRESSION HIS BUSINESS WASN'T EXACTLY WELCOME IN THIS RESTAURANT.

Byline: TAM COWAN

AND the great value for money meals just keep coming, folks...

Yep, hard on the heels of Stavka (two of us totally stuffed after pounds 10 of starters) and The Inn (a lavish feast of food and drink for four people for pounds 80) it gives me great pleasure to point you in the direction of Ignite - an Indian restaurant yards from Haymarket Station in Edinburgh.

First, though, I must start with a confession. Having stormed out of the same place one night a couple of weeks ago - after being totally ignored by the waiters for a good 15 minutes - I turned up last Thursday afternoon determined to stick the boot in big style.

Never got the chance, though. It really was excellent - no other word for it.

Mind you, certain aspects of the service still leave an awful lot to be desired.

For example, when I phoned to book a lunch time table for two, it's as if the guy on the other end of the line was trying everything in his power to put us off the idea.

Rather than welcoming us with open arms, hepreferred to keep reminding us what time they were closing.

'We shut at 2.30pm, sir,' he said. 'That's fine, we'll be there for just after one,' I replied. 'Yes, but we close the doors at 2.30pm,' he insisted.

What exactly did he think we fancied for lunch - a 14-course medieval banquet?

As it turns out - and I kid you not - my bum touched the seat in Ignite at exactly 1.03pmandwewere walking back for the train just 46 minutes later.

So come on, mate, why the big drama? Half the reason we were so quick is that the place was dead (perhaps other people who tried to phoneup for a table didn't have my patience).

'Did you book a table?' asked mymate Teddy, 'or the entire restaurant?'

Yes, there were only two other diners on the premises and you know what? I think that's quite incredible considering the amazing lunch time deal on offer.

In the city where I've regularly been charged pounds 7.50 for a starter (and that's at some of the more reasonable places) it's the same price at Ignite for three courses - that's starter, main course and coffee or tea.

Okay, this lunch time menu could never be described as extensive. In fact, I've plenty of space to give you the full rundown...

Veg pakora, veg samosa or chicken/lamb kebab followed by a chicken, lamb or veg curry (korma, bhuna, madras or pathia) or a chicken/mushroom omlette served with your choice of pilau rice or naan bread.

Simple, eh?

While weweren't even told about the a la carte option until it was far too late - yes, they were certainly desperate for the doors to close at half-two - this menu is always available.

According to our waiter, though, the express lunch time line-up seems to suit the local office workers. At these prices, it's easy to see why.

With nopoppadoms or spiced onions to nibble on (at pounds 7.50 weweren't really expecting any) I spent the first few minutes admiring the decor. Ignite boasts a very smart, modern interior and the crockery and cutlery positively sparkles. Call me old-fashioned, but that's always a reassuring sign in a restaurant.

Nothing worse than a scabby fork that looks as though it was used at the Last Supper.

Meanwhile, the toilets are very clean, very 21st century, very Edinburgh - check out the baby-changing fold down tray in the gents.

Fully expecting the drinks to be extortionate (a) to compensate for the cheap menuand (b) because we were pleasantly surprised to discoverwe weremenuand (b) because we were pleasantly surprised to discover it was pounds 2.30 for lager and pounds 2.85 for a large glass of house red.

But the food was the real bargain.The vegetable pakora (six pieces) was light, crispy and clearly freshly prepared, while the chicken kebab - essentially half a dozen chunks of chicken tikka - was also very good.

Both appetisers were served with what looked like a gravy boat filled with cold cream of chicken soup.

Turns out it was yoghurt blended with a variety of spices.

An extremely tasty alternative to the bog standard pakora sauce that looks - and sometimes tastes - like red emulsion.

Next up, no complaints about the pot of lamb bhuna.

A lunch time portion, sure, but it wasmorethan enough and if it lacked anything in quantity it more than madeup for it in quality. Ditto my chicken madras which I'm pleased to report was genuinely hot and spicy.

After just two bites, I wassweating like a glassblower's gonads and, as curry aficionados will appreciate, that's always a good sign.

Incidentally, both the rice and particularly the light and crispy naan are also well worth raving about. Nowaywerewe expecting such high quality at these low prices.

Tell you what else was a pleasant surprise - the warm handtowels and After Eights that came with the bill.

Not bad for a pounds 7.50 menu. Wedidn't bother with tea or coffee (having recently come into somemoney,Teddy promised to buyme a cuppaon the train) and it was good to leave an Indian restaurant not feeling bloated.

An even better feeling when it costs just pounds 7.50 a skull for the privilege.

Now I'm determined to give Ignite another bash in the evening.

But I'll have my fingers crossed the waiters don't blank us on this occasion.

IGNITE

Address: 272-274 Morrison Street, Edinburgh Tel: 0131 228 5666 Open: Seven days for lunch and dinner

Bill for two: pounds 20

Food: 4/5 - simple, fresh and tasty Service: 2/5 - avoid busy nights and phone chats Decor: 4/5 - very smart and stylish Toilets: 3/5 - spotless but no cat-swinging Value: 5/5 - a pounds 7.50 lunch in Edinburgh?

Total: 18/25

CAPTION(S):

Hot to trot:; The food isstandard Indian fare at Ignite but chefs work hard to make sure it always impresses; Better than vin ordinaire: Customers enjoy good wine with their tasty pasta
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 26, 2005
Words:1018
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