At the ripe old age of 70 you might expect signs of slowing down. Not so
IN the end we had pepper monkfish tikka and Kashmiri chilli potato, mango chicken tikka and even a bandal jaam. Outside on Leith Walk life bustled away, while the door swung open every five minutes or so and people walked up to the counter. To be told, as we had, that the place is packed to the rafters tonight so there will be a wait.
And wait people do. At that little row of seats behind the till counter. As brigades of waiters, who seem to work in twos, blitz in and out between tables that are frankly a little too closely squeezed in. Not quite cheek by jowl – it is Edinburgh after all – but not so far off it that I can’t look down and see pretty much exactly what the people at the next table are eating.
This is Khushi’s, arguably Edinburgh’s most famous Indian restaurant, which has been serving diners, in a bewildering variety of often changing sites, since way back in 1947.
What a location this is. A Wednesday evening in March and Edinburgh already has that European city feel. It’s chilly out there, but to look at the people strolling by the weather’s already balmy. In their heads anyway.
On the other side of the glass I’m getting very strong 1970s Indian restaurant vibes, and by that I mean back in the day when everyone went to an Indian and they had that centre-of-the-culinary-universe feel to them.
It’s not wham bam but there clearly is a system that has evolved to handle the sheer volume of customers. The man behind the desk at the front counter was relaxed, informal, suggesting we may want to get a drink at a nearby pub while waiting for the table.
We don’t because when I asked Lindsay if she fancied a quick bite, I was thinking of that becoming-very-fashionable restaurant just down the road.
Yes, the one where they never, ever seem to answer the phone. They’re still not answering the phone tonight, but it being a Wednesday and therefore quiet we wandered down to get a table.
I forgot. In Edinburgh every night’s a Friday night. So it’s completely full.
Lindsay mentioned that her mother-in- law is staying and that they’re having great Indian food every night so the original idea was to avoid Indian food. But what can you do? To nearby Khushi’s, then, with its “chicken curries all £10.95” on the menu. That doesn’t mean the food hasn’t moved with the times, though.
A pepper monkfish tikka starter at £7.95 is meaty, spicy and fresh. There’s cheese on it, too – strange, but not in a bad way.
A simple dish of potatoes fried in gram flour, draped in chilli and tomato has a garlicky buzz and that badal jaam at £5.95 may not look much with its core ingredients of aubergine and tomato but the mix of yogurt and cumin is pleasant. Maybe not so hot on all the main courses.
We try some different dishes. Mango chicken tikka may sound a little bit wooh, a little bit waah. It’s moist, sweetly flavoured and pleasant.
Murgh koliwara, on the other hand – billed as “a favourite from the Tinsel Town of Bollywood” – with cashew nuts, peanuts, poppy seeds and curry leaf, is nothing more than a disappointingly retro dish of a generic-looking and tasting sauce. It being a chicken curry, it costs £10.95, but poke and prod as long as I do I see and taste next to nothing of the
promised interesting ingredients, save for a forlorn curry leaf and a few sprinkles of something crumb-like. There’s £3 of basmati rice to be added to the cost of this making it, at £14, possibly not the best value.
Still, you know what you are getting when you come into Khushi’s. A feel, a confidence, maybe even a slight swagger to the whole enterprise that is no bad thing.
It’s not cheap, it’s not cutting edge, but it’s certainly not bad. If you know a restaurant Ron should review, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Khushi’s has been serving curries to Edinburgh diners since 1947 and is enduringly popular if a little pricey