A couple of weeks ago I went to see War Horse at the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh and was faced with a classic dilemma: where do I go to eat afterwards?! I have to admit, my knowledge of the Edinburgh food scene is pretty limited, but I did remember that the team behind Ox and Finch had opened a restaurant on George Street called Baba.
Baba, like Ox and Finch, is all about sharing plates and serving food as and when it’s ready, but the menu here is ‘inspired by flavours of the Levant’. In case you think I’m being fancy, that’s literally what it says on their website, it’s their tagline. It’s also, as you may have seen, one of the most Instagramable restaurants you’ll find. It looks beautiful inside and the food does too, full of bursts of colour and, I hoped, flavour.
We decided to start off with the delicious-sounding Peach Baba-llini, flavoured with thyme, nutmeg, vanilla and almond, grilled pitta with tahini and spiced tomatoes and hummus with pine nuts and zhug. Unfortunately, only two out of three arrived. The pitta and cocktails were with us in a flash, but our hummus forgot to show up. To be fair to the staff, we kind of forgot we’d asked for it and were so busy choosing other dishes it fell from our minds!
Our waitress recommended three main dishes and a couple of sides between two, but once we had ordered, it felt like we’d ordered three times that! Dishes kept arriving as we were savouring the flavours of a previous one – it was wonderful! From the Mezze section we ordered the venison and peppercorn carpaccio with feta and roasted hazelnuts, and I couldn’t resist ordering the hand-dived scallop with chermoula (whatever that is), tzatziki and preserved lemon.
The latter dish was priced based on how many scallops you order (£5 a pop), I was the only one who wanted to try it, so we just ordered the one, but I might order two next time! Chermoula, it turns out, is a sauce made from spices such as cumin, garlic and coriander, and it’s very good! The scallop was perfectly cooked and the flavours from the chermoula, the tzatziki and the sharpness of the lemon made for a memorable mouthful! The cauliflower fritters with zhug and crème fraiche are also worth trying. For just £3.50, it’s a hefty portion, and the batter is crispy and moreish.
From the main grill, I highly recommend the goosnargh chicken leg with harissa hummus, pickled cabbage and pomegranate. The meat fell off the bone and had just the right hit of heat. If chicken isn’t your thing, the baharat beef kofta with butternut, yoghurt and aleppo chilli is divine. There are only two koftas on the plate, so make sure you grab a bite before your dining partner does, as they are to die for, full of spice and nestled on a bed of butternut squash puree flavoured with the aleppo chilli. The slow-cooked pork belly, charcoal-baked celeriac and golden raisins is also not to be missed. Being a pork belly fiend, there was no way I wasn’t trying it, and although not as heavily spiced as some of the other dishes, it still packs a punch in terms of flavour.
In terms of sides, the only one we ended up ordering was the baked sweet potato, which arrived smothered in crème fraiche and zhug (a sauce made from hot green peppers, with coriander, garlic and black cumin). The flesh of the sweet potato was perfectly soft and was complimented with the combination of spicy zhug and cooling crème fraiche.
By the time we’d demolished all these dishes, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to manage dessert. That mindset lasted until I read the words dark chocolate crémeux, which, for obvious research purposes, had to be ordered. The crémeux was served with pistachio praline, tahini ice cream and puffed rice, with dried rose petals and fresh mint scattered ever so delicately across the plate. It was bloody delicious. The crémeux was so smooth and rich, there was crunch from the puffed rice, fragrance from the rose and mint, and the ice cream was creamy and full of that delicate tahini flavour. My plate was completely clean within a matter of moments.
Price wise, this is standard George Street. Some of the dishes do feel pricey considering the portion sizes, but the sides and mezze dishes offer good value for money. I don’t eat out in Edinburgh very often, but when I do, I’m going back to Baba.