Edinburgh International Film Festival – Day of the Flowers

Accomplished Glaswegian TV scriptwriter, Eirene Houston (credits include This Life, Eastenders, Monarch of the Glen) draws on her love of Cuba and her ‘leftie’ past (her words, not mine) for her first feature film and the first British film to be made in Cuba since the early days of the revolution.

Day of the Flowers film still
Source: http://www.screendaily.com

Day of the Flowers is hard to pigeonhole.  It is at once a family drama, road movie, coming of age flick, intercultural insight piece and – inevitably – contains a wee bit of light-hearted political commentary.  The story is based on polar opposite Scottish sisters, Rosa (anti-capitalist idealist, named after Rosa Luxemburg, played by Eva Birthistle) and Ailie (flirty, flaky, materialistic handbag-addict, played by Charity Wakefield).  Their parents were supporters of the Castro revolution and when their father dies, Rosa is determined to scatter his ashes on the Caribbean island where he and their mother spent so many happy times.  Ailie – imagining five star resorts and non-stop partying – tags along for the ride.

There are a few stereotypes along the way (a wily con man praying on tourists; a fairtrade tour group; a cheesy Cabaret scene) but the various journeys  on which the sisters embark (emotional journeys as well as travels on Cuba’s limited road network) are treated in with humour and sensitivity.  The comic moments and the pace of the drama prevent the film from sliding into too many clichés and throughout, the generosity of spirit and joie de vivre of Cuba shine through.  (And the fact that the film even reached our screens is testament to infinite Cuban ingenuity and admirable ability to “resolver,” or make do).

Cuban and international ballet megastar, Carlos Acosta, plays a very credible Tomas (aka the good guy).  This was his first acting role and in the Q&A following the premiere (Carlos Acosta inEdinburgh!  I was speechless!), he explained that the attraction of the part was that he wasn’t expected to play a dancer.  Dancing or acting, expect to see him back on the silver screen soon!

The connections between Scotland and Cuba are not obvious.  Scottish cities do not have large Cuban populations (although they are there if you look hard enough) and, as the film shows, the Cuba that Scottish socialists expect to find has changed and adapted to its socio-economic and geo-political realities since the heady days of the 1960s.  But neither is Cuba all about sunshine, salsa and sex.  Day of the Flowers goes some way towards a presentation of the complexities of modern Cuban life (refreshingly, beyond Havana) and the dangers of making assumptions.

(L-R) Christopher Simpson (Ernesto), Carlos Acosta (Tomas) at the EIFF Premiere
(c) Lynn Sheppard

For information about Cuban cultural connections in Edinburgh, see these pages.

© Lynn Sheppard

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7 Days in Havana

posters available to download from: 7daysinhavana.com

My second film in this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival was 7 Days in Havana, which premiered at Cannes and has been largely slated by mainstream American critics.

The rather novel concept behind the film was for 7 directors to make a short film for each of the days of the week.  These directors include arthouse favourites Julio Medem, Gasper Noé and Elia Suleiman as well as Benicio del Toro in his directorial debut.  Rather at odds with a Western idea of communist Cuba is the strong product placement (the film was funded by Havana Club and revolves around the Hotel Nacional) and the involvement of M&C Saatchi.

Perhaps predictably, we are a good few days into the week before the vignettes begin to join up into a whole and the characters from earlier films start to reappear.  Once this starts to happen, the differences in style, emphasis and content of the individual films becomes less relevant and the viewer is treated to a real insight into Havana life in year 53 of the Revolution.

This is the Havana that the tourist day-trippers from the resorts of Varadero don’t normally see.  They, like Teddy, the young American protagonist of Monday’s story, are often blissfully ignorant of the daily struggle of Habaneros:  the qualified engineer working as a mechanic by day and a taxi driver by night; the esteemed psychiatrist advising the nation on TV while she struggles to make ends meet, moonlighting as a patissier; and the talented jazz trumpeter sick of hearing the foreign clients in his borrowed taxi make empty promises about a musical career in Europe.

There are also, of course, plenty of Western tourists hooking up with locals (mainly women).  These may all sound like obvious stereotypes, but there is often a twist in their tale and the narrative does not end up in predictable places.  For the most part, the stories are treated with characteristic Cuban good humour, a large dose of rum and a cranking up of the music.  The colours are gaudy and the characters are brash, but this is life in Cuba.  People live from hand to mouth, they make do and mend but they do so with laughter, a sense of community and incredible resilience.  I know Cuba reasonably well, and I laughed out loud as I recognised situations and behaviours I have seen and experienced there.  Not a lot of cinema makes it out of Cuba to cinemas in Europe and it’s a treat for audiences to have this insight.

The soundtrack to the film contains some great examples of Cuban music from the son familiar from Buena Vista Social Club to the latest bumping, grinding reggaeton.  7 Days in Havana could do for Cuban tourism, rum exports and popular culture what Ry Cooder’s film did for salsa classes 13 years ago.

Read more about Cuba and its culture on my TravelBug blog.

© Lynn Sheppard

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His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Usher Hall

Befitting a once in a lifetime opportunity such as this, the audience in the Usher Hall was reasonably diverse. As well as the usual liberal chattering classes, we could see a few Tibetans, some Tibetan independence campaigners, representatives of the main religions of Scotland and a great many school-age children. We were there to hear the Dalai Lama speak on his 3rd visit to Scotland and the large audience (tickets sold out within 48 hours) was testament to his broad appeal – not only as a religious leader or global statesman, but also as a “humble monk” (as he likes to refer to himself), a great teacher, and Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Presumably due to his packed schedule (he is visiting 3 cities in as many days) and security concerns, the audience was seated long before His Holiness actually arrived. We were treated to performances by Tinderbox Frontiers and their incredibly vibrant Youth Orchestra; an acoustic guitar set; an operatic contribution to world peace (with builder-turned-opera-singer Martin Aelred) and Tibetan dancers as well as various speeches from local political and faith leaders. Unfortunately, none of the cultural groups were on the programme, nor were they adequately introduced (although the innovative multi-media backdrop did give their names). When booking the tickets, it had not even been apparent that this side programme would take place. It was a pity that the supporting acts were not given the profile they deserved (and given that they took up over an hour, an interval would also have been welcome before the main act!)

But that’s all by the by…. the Usher Hall’s capacity crowd was there to see His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. His Edinburgh Lecture, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the series, was on ‘Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World.’ It was more a series of observations interspersed with his characteristically infectious laugh than a formal speech and rambled around the themes of compassion, positivity, humanity, respect and good intention. Following the formal part, he took (incredibly challenging and well-considered) questions from local school pupils on a range of issues related to ethics and morals.

The Dalai Lama is such a charming figure. It is hard to imagine that he and his people have been through such hardship and even harder to comprehend his tireless campaign for global peace, his respect for fellow humans and his commitment to non-violent means. At the age of 77, he is spritely, good-humoured and incredibly vibrant. He even cheekily asked the school kids to guess his age, suggesting that he could pass for a man in his 60s. (He probably could).

The attraction of his message is in its simplicity. We would all like to hope that a life without conflict could be achieved. And he can make us believe it could. He spoke of how humans have more in common than that divides them – on a human to human level, we could all get along. No-one wants bother or conflict in their lives – isn’t it easier just to respect one another? He touched on the importance of genuine affection early in life and the vital role of mothers in providing that stabilising force to their babies. Surprisingly perhaps for a Buddhist monk, he even expounded on the theme of secularism, indicating that the secular approach – of respecting all religions as well as those who have none – was a cornerstone to avoiding conflict in the world.

The respect and admiration in the audience and on the stage for this diminutive figure in red and saffron robes, the talent of the performers given the opportunity to share that stage with him, and the award by the Dalai Lama of the first Edinburgh Youth Compassion Award conspired to create quite an emotional atmosphere and everyone was on their feet applauding loudly as His Holiness left the stage.

Surely, an audience with the Dalai Lama is on the top ten list of things to do before you (or he) die? What else would be on your list?

© Lynn Sheppard

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L’Envahisseur – The Invader

Day 2 of this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival and Cineworld had not really dressed up for the occasion.  All I could see was a scrap of red carpet in one corner and one measly pop-up banner – hardly festive.  But anyway, I’d come for a film, not for the décor…

source: moustique.be

I like a gritty social drama and I am especially drawn to stories of illegal immigrants and underdogs trying to get by.  This film is set in Brussels, a city I know well and where I came into close contact with many immigrants – illegal and legitimate – trying to gain access to the mainstream of society.  For those reasons, L’Envahisseur was high on my 2012 EIFF list.

Isaka Sawadogo plays Amadou, who washes up on a European beach with a bunch of half-drowned  sub-Saharan clandestines.  He ends up on the mean streets of the EU capital trying to make a living on a building site, squatting somewhere between high rise office blocks and sex shops in an underground garage.  Sawadogo portrays an believably complex range of emotions: optimism, anguish, resignation, hope, despair, fear, lust, passion, guilt and obsession. The viewer lives through his heady highs and his plummeting lows and the film delivers suspense as he lives on the knife edge, not knowing if the gang master will catch up with him before the police do.

Those who know the city less well might miss (I presume) a deliberate tactic to emphasise the absolute alienation felt by Amadou in this strange, misty, northern city: on the streets of Brussels and on its public transport (contrary to reality), hardly any other black person appears. 

However, this is Belgium, birthplace of Matisse, and accordingly L’Envahisseur has its surreal moments.  These, along with occasional and disappointing dabbling in stereotypes, sometimes absurd nudity and (in my view) unnecessarily suggestive images, detracted somewhat from the narrative and risked turning social commentary into something all together more superficial. 

Overall, this was an engaging film, made all the more so for me by the familiarity of the location and the scenarios.  It features an incredibly talented actor in the lead role and it is rather due to the deliberate artistic devices deployed by the Director rather than in any way down to Sawadogo’s efforts that the viewer needs to take the occasional leap of faith.

(c) Lynn Sheppard

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Les Hommes Libres – Free Men

Set largely in the fabulous Grande Mosquée of Paris, Les Hommes Libres tells the little known story of the role of immigrant Algerian men and women in the French resistance during World War II. 

source: IMDb

The narrative is cleverly layered and – based on true stories – is a new take on stereotypical  war dramas.  The stories twist and turn and it is genuinely difficult to understand whose side the main characters are on.  Those who should be enemies are friends; those who appear to be friends are deadly enemies. In short, at this time, as a Muslim immigrant in Nazi occupied Paris, there were few people one could trust.

The main protagonist, Younes, is played by Tahar Rahim  with a similarly provocative, devil-may-care characterisation as he employed in The Prophet.  It is hard to genuinely warm to his character at first, who is apparently out to save his own skin, but the relationships he forms, as he becomes increasingly forced to live a clandestine lifestyle under the threat of Nazi round-ups and persecution, have a profound effect on him.  He is, however, a reluctant hero.

Ismaël Ferroukhi’s film portrays a little known side to a well known chapter in European history.  Like Rachid Bouchareb’s ‘Days of Glory’ (Les Indigenes), which explores the contribution of colonial troops to the French war effort, Les Hommes Libres highlights how Muslim immigrants felt that the plight of the mother country, la France, was their own and they stood beside their French metropolitan and paysan brothers during World War II in a fraternité that is easy to forget in modern times.

© Lynn Sheppard

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Lunch in Leith

I have recently moved jobs from Leith back into the city centre of Edinburgh and I thought I would record my favourite lunch haunts.  I have deliberately excluded the mall tedium of Ocean Terminal (although it contains many lunch spots) and Leith’s many Michelin starred restaurants (where I couldn’t afford to eat lunch on a daily basis!!) I am no fan of sandwiches, so I haven’t included any of the many deli/sandwich bars, so if you know them, rate them!

Beside the Sandport Place Bridge, Café Truva is a small part of the Mediterranean in sunny Leith.  From the wide selection of Turkish and Middle Eastern dishes, my favourites are the platters featuring crispy falafel and creamy humus.  There is also a range of wraps, salads and hot dishes to choose from as well as cakes and tray bakes for dessert.  There are another 2 branches at the Art College and in the Canongate.
Café Truva, 77 The Shore, Leith. Tel: (0131) 554 5502

  • Domenicos

Domenicos is worth a trip across town for.  It’s cheap, it’s cheerful and the food is incredibly good.  Sit in for daily pasta and other Italian-inspired specials (book if you come with a  group – it’s really not very big!) or take away one of their DIY salads or mega sandwiches  (just pick whatever you fancy from the fridge).  A daily pasta dish and soup are also available to take away. You can even order online in advance!
Café Domenico,  30 Sandport Street, Leith. Tel: (0131) 467 7266

  • Fit Food Bistro

Don’t let the superfit mountaineering equipment put you off – the café at the back of the Tiso shop in Leith is normally full of civil servants (don’t let that put you off either).  There are daily specials and a great base menu of jacket potatoes, sandwiches, paninis and the like plus a huge range of cakes and traybakes.  Great value, simple, delicious lunches.  The service is quick, too, in case you’re in a hurry.
Fit Food Bistro, Tiso Edinburgh Outdoor Experience, 41 Commercial Street, EH6 6JD. Tel: (0131) 555 2211

  • The Granary

Now part of the same chain as the ever popular Three Sisters (in the Cowgate) and Ghillie Dhu (Rutland Place), the Granary offers a range from a simple soups through bar lunches to full-blown meals.  For a light lunch, the daily soup and sandwich deal is good value at £5.95 and features a high quality filling from the main menu (rather than the skimpy cheese or egg sarnies of cheaper deals elsewhere).  The Granary has large plate glass windows overlooking the Cruz restaurant boat and the Water of Leith.
The Granary, 32-34 The Shore, Leith, Edinburgh, EH6 6QN. Tel: 0845 166 6005

  • King’s Wark

source: google maps

I prefer the King’s Wark for dinner, as the award-winning pub nosh is generally pretty substantial.  Using local ingredients, there’s always plenty of Scottish beef, locally caught fish and a few veggie options on the menu.  It’s really good and not for rushing, so I’d recommend it when you don’t have to head back to the office!
King’s Wark, 36 Shore   EH6 6QU. Tel: (0131) 554 9260

  • La Garrigue

The latest in the Edinburgh French mini-chain, La Garrigue at Commercial Quay offers an excellent value lunch menu for the slightly more special occasion.  Although it’s a bit more expensive that a soup and a sarnie at Fit Food Bistro and is more expensive than its (also French) predecessor, Daniel’s, the quality makes it worth the occasional splurge.  Seating in the conservatory at the back offers an uninspiring view of the Scottish Government building, so best concentrate on what’s on your plate!

  • Mithas

Pitching itself as offering Indian cuisine ‘redefined’, Mithas isn’t the kind of place you’d go for lunch on a daily basis – it’s more of an evening restaurant.  For a special occasion or the Friday at the end of a long week, though, it’s great.  The taster menu offers a sample of the best of their dishes, all of which are subtly and exquisitely spiced and presented. 
Mithas, 7 Dock Place, Leith, EH6 6LU. Tel: (0131) 554 0008.

  • A Room in Leith

Docklands sister of A Room in the West End, this is housed in Teuchter’s Landing – the brother of Teuchters in William Street.  Again, the menu is a bit more upmarket than the local sandwich bars and delis, but the food is excellent and the setting very pleasant for a more relaxed lunchbreak.
A Room in Leith, 1c Dock Place, EH6 6LU. Tel. 0131 554 7427

  • Roseleaf

This erstwhile old man’s corner pub has been turned into a haven of foreign bottled beers, cocktails in teapots, cupcakes and light lunches.  My kinda pub!  The lunch menu features hot and cold dishes as well as some vitamin-boosting fruit and vegetable smoothies. 
Roseleaf, 23/24 Sandport Place, EH6 6EW. Tel: 0131 476 5268

Hidden around the back of the bars and restaurants on the shore, Tapa is a great find for lunch.  The £10 deal for 7 tapas for 2 people to share is a bargain – just make sure you let them know if there’s anything you don’t eat.
Tapa, 19 Shore Place, EH6 6SW. Tel: (0131) 4766776

  • Water of Leith Bistro

Ana Meslé offers a warm welcome to one and all, particularly younger guests at the bistro she runs with her French chef husband, Mickael at the juncture of the Water of Leith walkway and Coburg Street.  The lunch menu is chalked up on a board and features excellent value British and French dishes from soups to risottos to fish dishes.  There’s a kids corner to keep young ones happy, and a changing table to keep them clean. And if you are tempted not to return to work, you can pick up a map of the Water of Leith walkway and wander off!
Water of Leith Café Bistro, 52 Coburg St, Leith. Tel: (0131) 555 2613

Do you lunch in Leith? Where’s your favourite place to go for a light bite in the middle of the day?

© Lynn Sheppard

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JP Cameras, Abbeyhill

 I often lament the fact that so few people fix things anymore in the UK.  I hate the idea of throwing stuff away when it still works.  I use Freecycle and frequently donate to charity shops, but while the idea of giving away your cast-offs is better than binning them, I can’t help thinking that for most people in our consumer society, buying a new one is more efficient (whether in time or money) than making do and mending.  One of the aspects I love about my frequent trips to Morocco is that I can take pretty much anything to be mended or sold on – not dumped, not disposed of, and never given away for free.  But that will be the subject of another blog post.  Back to Edinburgh…

On a recent trip to Barcelona, I noticed that a small black blur was appearing in the viewfinder of my digital camera and was particularly noticeable when I used the zoom.  I am very happy with my camera (a Panasonic Lumix of a couple of years ago) and was keen to get it fixed quickly.

I was last in JP Cameras around 20 years ago when the 35mm manual camera I had received for opening my first bank account ground to a halt, full of sand.  I didn’t even know if the shop was still there!  Since then, JP has set up a website, where I was able to discover that he is open an enviable (although not necessarily very consumer-friendly) two days a week, namely on Thursdays and Fridays from 7am-2pm.

Walking into the shop on a Friday morning was like a blast from the past.  Little has changed, except that digital cameras are now also part of the JP service.  In no time at all, the problem with my camera was diagnosed and I received an estimate of £45 including £30-odd for the parts.  I left my beloved camera in capable hands and got a text message around 2 hours later to say it was fixed.

On my return to collect my camera, the shop was busier and the man I presume to be JP was explaining that many of the large manufacturers were now restricting distribution of their parts to small repairers like him, in order to force customers either to get repairs done by the manufacturers (presumably at greater expense) or to buy new.  I am disgusted by such consumerist cynicism on the part of global business and saddened that this might mean the death knell for independent repair shops such as JP’s.

As this video reminds us, great resources are consumed to create and dispose of all the ‘stuff’ we buy and use.  I urge you to prolong the life of your possessions and get them fixed.  That way, you can keep your favourite items, and you’ll preserve our environment and the jobs of local small business people in the process.  (JP also sells new cameras when yours is beyond repair!)

(c) Lynn Sheppard

JP Camera Repair Co
64 Montrose Terrace, Abbeyhill, Edinburgh 7

Tel: (0131) 661 8429
www.jpcameras.co.uk

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Bombay Bicycle Club

On a recent Sunday, I met some friends for dinner who were up from London and staying in a hotel in the Fountainbridge area.  I thought I’d take them to Brougham Place in Tollcross, which is a veritable melting pot of restaurants, only one of which, Passorn, I have ever tried.  Knowing that in addition to this Thai restaurant there are French, Spanish, South Indian, and Greek restaurants in the first block off Tollcross, I thought we’d have plenty of choice.

How wrong could I be?! Although this is the heart of Edinburgh’s student neighbourhood, it would seem students don’t eat on Sundays.  Perhaps they are too busy studying or being hungover?  Who knows.  Fact is, our choice was very limited and we dashed into the Bombay Bicycle Club to avoid the heavy rain (and because there wasn’t much else open).

Although it wasn’t very busy (it’s a big restaurant and there were only a couple of other occupied tables – perhaps indicating the wisdom of the other locales taking the night off), the warm red décor and friendly staff made it feel like a cosy refuge from the April showers.  Our waiters were very patient – we were too busy catching up on news to concentrate on the menu – and were very happy to provide recommendations.  That was just as well, as the menu is extensive, featuring specials as well as the usual variety of curries with the choice of chicken/lamb/prawn/veg.

our curry selection
(c) Lynn Sheppard

Finally, I chose a paneer (Indian cheese) dish, while my friends chose a Punjabi Methi Ghosht (a lamb curry featuring fenugreek) and a Chicken Jhalfreizee (with fresh green chilli, green pepper and coriander).  After all that chatting, we were hungry and ordered some mango lassis (yoghurt drinks) and popadoms with chutneys to keep us going until the mains arrived.

Pushkari Palak Paneer with pilau rice
(c) Lynn Sheppard

The portions were large and the curries were just the ticket to warm our cockles on a cold Spring night.  They were served on a hot plate, which was definitely necessary to keep the food hot between our mammoth rounds of news and gossip!  As is often the case in Indian restaurants, the portions were actually more than we needed and we had no room for dessert.

This is not my favourite Indian restaurant in Edinburgh (see also my reviews of Tanjore and Rivage), but the friendly staff, clean, crisp décor, cute bicycle-themed branding and a decent menu make it worth a try.  Especially when all the neighbouring restaurants are closed!  We paid just under £65 for popadoms and mains for three with rice and naan plus 3 lassis and 3 beers (the drinks were £20 alone). The BBC (!) offers a student discount, does a take away and delivery service and can cater for large groups.

BBC
(c) Lynn Sheppard

Bombay Bicycle Club

6-6a Brougham Place, Tollcross, Edinburgh 3Tel: (0131) 229 3839

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East End eats

A friend recently asked for restaurant recommendations in the area around the Playhouse Theatre and Edinburgh’s (mini) gay village and I thought I would share my suggestions more widely.

My top three East End favourites are:

1. Urban Angel, Forth Street – bistro style establishment which moves seamlessly from yummy mummy brunches to corporate lunches to delicious dinners.  The daily specials on the chalk board are inspired  by modern European and Scottish cuisines and composed of local and organic ingredients. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable and they have great cakes!
http://www.urban-angel.co.uk/

2. Phuket Pavilion, Union St – this is a hidden gem in a sea of group-catering Italian mega-restaurants.  It’s one of my favourite Thais in town and is handily opposite the Playhouse.
http://www.phuket-pavilion.co.uk/

3. Cafe Marlayne, Antigua Street – the service in the cafe at the front can be erratic, but the restaurant through the back is something else.  The menu is thoroughly French menu and the setting is like an eclectically decorated barn straight out of the pages of Living.etc magazine, complete with giant disco ball. Execllent value from the sister of the longer-established Thistle Street restaurant of the same name.
http://www.cafemarlayne.com/antigua_street_restaurant_edinburgh.php

Image

There are a number of decent restaurants and bars serving food on Broughton St:

  • The Basement, 12 Broughton St – Pub grub and TexMex nosh in an infromal bar environment – cheap, cheerful and the best nachos in town. http://www.thebasement.org.uk/
  • Treacle, 39-41 Broughton St – a very decent bar with a raised area of tables for eating. The menu is pan-global burgers, noodles etc. While you eat you can watch Japanese anime on the wall! http://www.treacleedinburgh.co.uk/
  • Locanda de Gusti, 7-11 East London Street – at foot of Broughton St, this really good Italian restaurant  with a menu that goes beyond the pasta and pizza offering of the Picardy Place/Leith Walk Italians which cater largely for the pre-Theatre and Hen Night crowds. www.locandadegusti.com

Between those there should be something for a variety of tastes and a good choice between the louder, more buzzy and the quieter, more intimate.

(c) Lynn Sheppard
image: www.cafemarlayne.com

Where are your favourite East End eateries?

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Rivage Indian Restaurant and Bar

Aloo Tikki
(c) Lynn Sheppard

Like Al Dente just down the street, Rivage is another unexpected gem on Easter Road.  What really sets Rivage apart from Edinburgh’s many other Indian restaurants is its menu.  I was there recently with 3 friends for my second visit and we were impressed by the imagination and value of the food on offer.

Unlike the usual Indian restaurant menu, which consists of a choice of chicken, lamb, prawns or vegetables with a variety of sauces (leading me often to wonder whether any of the main ingredients are actually cooked in the sauce), or Edinburgh’s latest trend, Indian ‘tapas’, Rivage offers a full and well-considered menu where each dish stands proudly in its own right.

We started with popadoms/padads and chutnetys but from that point forth, our table featured none of the usual suspects.  Not an onion bhaji or vegetable samosa in sight, our starters included scallop varuval (a seared seafood variation on a popular Kerala dish normally made with chicken); prawn balchao (a Goan spicy sweet and sour dish where the prawns are almost pickled) and aloo tikki (deliciously spicy potato and spinach patties).    

scallop varuval
(c) Lynn Sheppard

Meanwhile, we could see our naan breads being preparing in the tandoorovens of the open plan preparation area.  Attention to detail and flavour combinations is one of the major points in Rivage’s favour.  We eagerly anticipated our main courses! 

We were not disappointed.  I took the Goan fish curry – a delicious mélange of tomato, tamarind and spices – with an understated pilau rice (no random neon flecks here!).  My companions chose the Murgh Butter Masala – a modesty spiced chicken dish and Karhai Gosht – a traditional Mughal lamb curry popular in modern Pakistan.  These were accompanied by our huge, fluffy peshwari naans, full of sweet dried fruit and steaming straight out of the oven.

Goan Fish Curry
(c) Lynn Sheppard

Oddly, we were not offered desserts, but perhaps that was just telepathy on the part of the staff.  After such a feast, we didn’t have any room.  Fortunately, I live in the neighbourhood, so I didn’t have far to roll home!

Rivage offers contemporary Indian dining at its best.  There is not a trompe l’oeil waterfall picture or a scrap of flock wallpaper in sight.  The menu reflects the range of culinary influences on owner and chef Ryad Meeajane’s native Mauritius.  Other reviewers give the front of house service very mixed ratings, but on both occasions I have visited, the service has been attentive and friendly.  Rivage is definitely worth a trip away from the well-known Southside and Leith clusters of Indian restaurants.  Not only is the food excellent, but at less than £90 for popadoms for 4, 3 starters, 4 mains and 7 beers (albeit a little pricey at £3.20 a bottle), it represents brilliant value.  Rivage also offers a take away menu.

Rivage
126 Easter Road, Edinburgh 7.
tel: (0131) 661 6888
(no website that I could find)

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