Guys, a new restaurant is opening in Edinburgh and you need to go. I’m lucky to get invited to lot of restaurant launches and reviews, and they’re almost always great. But with so many great restaurants in the city, it’s rare to find one that is amazing and instantly becomes a new favourite.
But that’s exactly what happened when I visited BABA for a preview lunch last week. The restaurant, which is from the team behind Glasgow’s Ox and Finch, opens on the 15th November and I would highly recommend booking yourself a table.
What We Ate at BABA Restaurant
What we ate? Well, pretty much everything on the menu! Sat with some lovely ladies from the Scottish Bloggers Collective, we were brought plate after plate of delicious food to share – from dips and mezze to mains from the signature charcoal grill.
The menu is inspired by Levantine cuisine, so you can expect lots of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavours. Look out for a wee hint of Scottishness too, with dishes like the very moreish haggis and harissa kibbeh.
I’d recommend starting off with a selection of dips to share, along with some freshly toasted pitta bread. My favourites were the muhammara (a hot pepper dip with aleppo chilli and chopped walnuts), the beetroot hummus (with whipped feta and hazelnut dukkah) and the classic hummus (with pine nuts and zhug).
On to the mains, and you can choose between dishes from the charcoal grill, or traditional kebabs with a gourmet twist. I was a big fan of the chuck-eye steak, which was served with sumac onion salad and red pepper ketchup. The steak had a wonderful smokiness from the charcoal grill, and the tangy onions were the perfect accompaniment.
I also loved the monkfish with chickpeas in a tomato and saffron sauce, and the grilled cauliflower with tahini ras-el-hanout and rose was a surprise contender. A great veggie option that would even please most meat eaters!
Of course, I had to have a go at making my own kebab too. All the accompaniments come separately, so you can customise your kebab with exactly the right amount of sauce and filling to suit your tastes. In a warmed pitta, I added some pickled vegetables, garlic tahini and zhug, plus plenty of delicious chicken shawarma meat. I also tried a wee bit of the lamb shawarma and it was delicious too.
By the time it got to dessert, I was pretty stuffed but still managed to make room for the BABA sundae! It’s an ice cream sundae with an Eastern Mediterranean twist – the ice cream flavours include tahini, pistachio and coffee and cardamom. I also had my eye on the delicious looking olive oil sponge and pomegranate sorbet.
The Atmosphere at BABA Restaurant
As I visited as part of a preview event for bloggers, it’s hard to say exactly what the atmosphere will be like once it’s open. But I’m pretty sure BABA will be one of those relaxed, all-day kind of venues. The sort of place you can pop in for a quick lunch after a morning shopping in town, but equally good for getting dressed up and celebrating a special dinner in the evening.
With huge windows overlooking George Street, the restaurant is bright and airy, with plenty of Levantine touches. The decor is slightly shabby chic, with exotic lanterns and rugs, earthy colours and little pops of rustic luxury. The cocktail bar is slightly more dark and cosy, perfect for enjoying a drink in the evening.
The drinks menu at BABA is also really interesting. The cocktails feature unusual ingredients that would normally only be found on a food menu, and most of the wines are from the Eastern Mediterranean. I tried a Sufi Fizz cocktail which was a mix of vodka, vanilla, rose, labneh, lime, cardamom and ginger tea soda. There were also options like the Sesamartini (made with sesame gin or sesame vodka) and the Olive Oil Negroni.
Worth a Visit?
I’m already looking for an excuse to book a table at BABA again, it really was that good. The food was so fresh and delicious, and quite different to any other Mediterranean/Eastern food I’ve had in Edinburgh. Not only did it taste good, it was also beautifully presented – bright and colourful food always looks even more appetising!
I like to thing of myself as quite knowledgable when it comes to food, but there were quite a few ingredients and flavours I had never tried (or in some cases even heard of!) before. It was lovely to try something new, and all of it was delicious. The only thing I wasn’t really a fan of was the goats cheese and pistachio dip, and that’s just because I hate goats cheese. But even that was much nicer than any other goats cheese thing I’ve tried before – the chefs here are magic!
BABA opens on George Street (as part of the Principal Hotel Charlotte Square) on the 15th of November, and I highly recommend booking yourself a table to try out the menu. You won’t be disappointed.