A great menu is surely one where you find a mix of old favourites and exciting â€˜unknownsâ€™ or tempting surprises. We found all of that last week at Voujon, in Newington.
Iâ€™m often overwhelmed by menus, especially when they run to several pages, (and Iâ€™m hungry!) and quite often I just wish someone would make the choice for me. Itâ€™s tricky with South East Asian food, though, because I know it reasonably well, and the set menus tend to be just a bit too familiarâ€¦
The joy of Voujon is that there are â€“ to use a bit of a clichÃ© â€“ new twists on old classics, but those old classics remain for those who prefer them.
My dining partner, friend (and photographer), Jacqui Dunbar, have both spent time in Bangladesh, so after not seeing each other for several months, this Indian-Bangladeshi restaurant was an ideal choice.
Following the obligatory popadums and dips (all good), we shared two starters: Macher Bora and Panee Puri. The latter, the waiter was quick to tell us, was served cold â€“ itâ€™s sometimes unexpected, he said, when hot food predominates â€“ and it was delicious. Hollow crispy puff balls filled with chickpeas and potatoes, accompanied by a pour-over tamarind sauce, this was street food at its best, and brought back lots of memories of the frusca of Bangladesh.
The two of us could probably have snacked on this all evening, and it did somewhat overshadow the perfectly pleasant Macher Bora, which were described as white fish kebabs, but looked like battered fish bites (we were clearly, and mistakenly, picturing kebabs on skewers).
Now, here at Lothian Life, we have reviewed Voujon before; Suzy Powell and her father did the honours three years ago, and whilst they loved their starters, their main courses were less memorable. Not so ours, Iâ€™m delighted to say! The Kerelan Chicken Curry (with garlic naan), and the Aloo Mangshaw (literally, potatoes and lamb) were melt-in-the-mouth delicious. The lamb was fall-apart tender â€“ which is definitely not always a given â€“ and the chicken moist and well-flavoured.
Both sauces were medium-hot, spicy enough but not overwhelming, and very different. Again, a real treat, as itâ€™s always disappointing when the more or less the same stock sauce is simply filled with other ingredients and varying levels of chilli.
After all that, the house dhal was a bit of a disappointment. Now, how to cook the best lentil accompaniment is a thesis-worthy discussion: thick or thin, spicy or subtle, it will always vary between kitchens and even from day to day, and often comes down to personal preference. Â This one just didnâ€™t have much flavour and didnâ€™t add a great deal to an otherwise great meal.
The presentation of the meals was beautiful, the service friendly and efficient, and they were very gracious about us turning up early â€“ as in about ten minutes after the restaurant actually opened rather than the planned hour later â€“ but what can I say? We were looking forward to good food and good company, and we had both in abundance.
Starters from Â£3.75 and Main Course from Â£8.75. (Takeaway menu available).
Voujon, 107 Newington Road, Edinburgh, EH9 1QW
Images courtesy of Jacqui Dunbar Photography