2 Grosvenor Street, Edinburgh EH12 5BT
0131 337 7920 www.rustomrestaurant.co.uk
Starters: £2.95 - £6.95 | Mains: £8.95 - £25.95 | Desserts: £4.00 - £4.95
Cooking 7/10 | Service 5/5 | Flavour 4.5/5 | Value 4.5/5
What’s in a name? Since I’ve started checking out the meanings of the names of restaurants which I review, whether Gaelic (depressingly common here in Scotland), Chinese or Indian, I’ve come to realise that the answer is usually, hee haw. French or Italian joints will assume that many can translate theirs: the converse is true with most places which have their roots in the sub-continent. So despite its moniker, warrior, I have never been in a less military-like space than that occupied by Rustom. I much prefer the blurb on their website which tells us they are seeking to emulate the décor of Mughal palaces in south Asia. That’s more like it. Although they proclaim this to serve Pakistani and Indian cuisine, Rustom is a Hindi word, and the banner Desi Khana above the specials section of the menu is simply Hindi for Indian Food.
I like to get my little quibbles out of the way early. The above paragraph, I assure you, contains the only negative things you will hear from me about this lovely newcomer, situated in a former bank at Haymarket. Very boldly, they have chosen a site directly across the road from the well established Omar Khayam. I pass the site regularly. The development seemed to take an age. I suppose that if your role models come from the Mughal Empire, the prospect of starting a long dynasty must imbue a little patience.
They’ve now been open for nearly a year. When you go in on a miserable weekday and are asked if you have booked (and you’re not dealing with the comedian whose restaurant is always empty), it’s a sign of good business. On one of the filthiest nights of this vilest of Edinburgh summers, Rustom was, if I may mix my geographical metaphors, a true oasis. An elegant dining room; the warmest of welcomes; the loveliest of staff.
Everyone serves a decent poppadum these days, but the quality of the accompanying pickles is a good early indicator. Here they are excellent. Something to nibble, something to drink, and the world is a better place. I’ve now been a couple of times, once with L alone, the second time with The Dementor and her partner the Grizzled Old Journalist. That’s quite a combination.
As is the menu. A longish list of keenly priced starters has all the usual suspects, but also a few standouts. Masala Crispy Baingan, for example, marinated aubergines, deep fried, served with a mint and tamarind chutney. Or Gol Gappa, a new one on me, crispy shells (made of garam flour, perhaps?) stuffed with potatoes and chickpeas. The standards were above standard quality. Excellent pakora, and fish starters which had an unaccustomed freshness.
Moving on to mains, there is a grill section (and, bless them, they will do steak and chips for those who were dragged along against their will), an excellent vegetarian choice and, touchingly, a page headed Old is Gold, with your Butter, Tikka Masala, and Korma options and many more which we knew in the 70s. Of much more interest are the specialities, some of which require half an hour’s notice. How wacky do you want to go? Under the heading of Delicacies you could go for lambs’ brains or sheep’s trotters. I haven’t tried them yet (I think either would make L a little squeamish) but I will. Meanwhile the lamb shank, the Chicken Madras and the King Prawn Karahi are still in the memory, and that menu just has so much more to be sampled.
On the first visit, I spoke to a lady who seemed to be the boss. I don’t know if she was in fact Uzma Sahar, the director of the company. Where did you trade from before, I asked? This is our first restaurant, came the reply. We were previously in retail. Wowzer! Some first attempt. The place is lovely, the food is fantastic, and the staff are as charming as you will find anywhere. I make no apology for the repetition. Are you getting the impression that I liked it?