Great Places to Eat in Scotland
- Indian Cavalry Club, Edinburgh
This legendary Edinburgh Indian restaurant has been a well established address in Atholl Place at the West End since 1986. With a large curry fan base, regulars and city visitors, it was decided as a celebration of its 21st birthday to move to larger premises literally across the road on the corner of Coates Crescent. It's an impressive grey stone Georgian townhouse, just a short walk from Haymarket station (illustrated here) and five minute walk from the West End of Princes Street.
The new Cavalry Club is a sprawling and palatial space over two floors, seating twice as many as over the road - from 65 before to 130 diners today, served in several public and private dining rooms. From the moment you enter, the ambience is definitely 1930s/ 1940s British Raj. This is all about colonial tradition and regimental style but far from being overly formal, the greeting from smartly dressed staff is warm and welcoming. To the right hand side is the Pakora Bar, furnished with comfortable booths for couples or groups of friends- ideal for a glass of champagne before dinner or indeed as a café bar, this is the venue for a drink and spicy snack any time of the day.
Then to the left hand side is the main Dining Room, freshly decorated in rich shades of terracotta, burgundy and brown, polished wood floor, with neat rows of white linen covered tables. As it is such a popular restaurant, tables are packed together rather tightly and a table for two may feel cramped. The elegant room is tastefully, traditionally designed with lush flowing drapes on the four tall windows, stylish ceiling and wall lamps and attractive wood panelling and mirrors along the walls.
The Cavalry Club also has several small rooms (for up to 45 diners) each aptly named: The Officers' Mess, The Club room, the Corporate Dining room for private parties, business lunches, corporate events, wedding receptions and birthday celebrations. Regular guests and corporate clients may wish to join the Pukka Club for discounts and special offers.
The menu is extensive covering north and south Indian cuisine, seafood, speciality and vegetarian dishes. So order a glass of Prosecco while you study the selection of starters, mains, rice, Bahji (side orders) and usual chapati and naan breads. The menu begins, "It is our aim to bring you a taste of India prepared from fresh ingredients by our award winning chefs." Indeed the kitchen has a team of specialist chefs, each trained in particular styles of cuisine, North Indian, seafood or vegetarian.
To begin then, the selection of Colonel's Pakoras and Samosas sound really tasty. But how to choose? Best to sample two or three, which is fun when you are with a group of friends. Tried and tested are the King Prawn, Seafood and Aubergine pakoras, served with a dipping sauce. There's also Chicken and Lamb Kofta pakoras as well as Dosas (thin lentil flour pancakes) with your choice of vegetarian, chicken or lamb filling and soups - for example, Regimental chicken corn soup.
A selection of Recommended Wines is given but (on this occasion) when I asked to have a glass of Californian Pinot Grigio and my partner, a Sancerre with fishy pakoras (as suggested), we were informed we would have to have a bottle of each. The recommended wines for particular dishes are not available by the glass. Oh, well two glasses of house white please.
Now on to the main event. As vegetarian cooking is such a classic element of Indian cuisine, I opted for Kashmiri Vegetarian Shabnam, a chunky, healthy spicy "stew" of green beans, cauliflower, carrots, peas, cottage cheese, potatoes, onions and tomatoes. The suggested side dish of chickpeas in coriander sauce was the ideal complement adding the perfect texture and nutritional value. My dining companion selected a Kerala speciality dish, Tuna Steak, char grilled and cooked with tamarind, green chillies, lime and coconut. With this he selected a side order of Sag Alu (Spinach and potatoes) and the overall result got the thumbs up. Freshly cooked fish, given a lively bite with the sharp tongue-tingling chilli, softened with the creamy coconut.
We each had a bowl of pilau rice and sipped two glasses of house red wine and bottle of water. The recommended wines for our dishes were respectively a Rioja and a Pinotage but unfortunately both available by the bottle only.
There's also a page of Chargrilled and Tandoori specialities such as Tandoori Chicken on the Bone and Chargrilled Lamb kebab. The Seafood menu is certainly tempting -king prawns, seabass, salmon etc. - cooked as you like, either pan fried or chargrilled with your preference for sweet and sour / rich and spicy sauce. Then on page 72 (or so it seems!), you'll find the list of Cavalry Club Famous Curries, one to suit every taste and palate from a garlicky Rogan Josh to a super hot, Vindaloo. The selection of Bhaji is really impressive and rather tempting to experience the different combinations of vegetables, lentils, beans, cheese, herbs and spices.
In addition to the main menu, why not select one of the gourmet set menus or banquets which will turn lunch or dinner into an Indian feast for a special occasion.
See www.indiancavalryclub.co.uk" for current menu and prices.
Indian Cavalry Club is located at 22 Coates Crescent, Edinburgh EH3 7AF. For reservations, telephone (0131) 228 3282. Further information is available on the Indian Cavalry Club website.
I selected a Sunday night to experience the Indian Cavalry Club and was informed it should be a quiet night. It may have been quieter than usual as they did not open up the downstairs dining room, but for me it was busy. Crowded out with tables quickly cleared and set again as yet another couple, family or group of friends arrived. It seemed particularly popular with city visitors, perhaps staying in local hotel or guest house. Perhaps because the staff were rushing about tending to everyone, service was rather slow, forgetful and inattentive.
However, the menu could not offer more choice to suit everyone and you do get a clear impression that the dishes are created freshly by a kitchen brigade of speciality chefs. If you just want a light lunch, why not call in to the attractive Pakora bar for a drink and platter of starter dishes. The restaurant is certainly the place for dinner for 2, night out with friends or plan a Birthday party or corporate lunch in the Officers Mess. Whatever the event or reason for visiting the Indian Cavalry club, you'll enjoy a lively atmosphere and a true taste of the British Raj.
Vivien Devlin, British Guild of Travel Writers
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