Thai, Thai, Thai, Thai I never thought I’d be eating so much Thai food! And, enjoying it, no less!
I rather enjoyed my starter at Time 4 Thai on Tuesday evening, after a nice Pad Thai on Monday, and then for lunch today (Friday), I went to Leven’s over in Tollcross, where B was happily conversing with the ever lovely Danielle from Edinburgh Foodie and Jenny, who is the brains and power behind Yelp! Edinburgh.
Once again, I felt like I was going into a hotel lobby, and somehow felt entirely under-dressed with my skirt and polo top. Nonetheless, my jacket was hung up for me and I was seated at the table and was promptly offered a glass of sparkling water.
We had lunch menus on the table. There were 2 options of starters and a few more of the mains. I was a bit disappointed straight away since I had heard only good things about Leven’s and was hoping to get a peek at the beef spaghetti and give it a try, perhaps. But alas, we were not offered an a la carte menu and so made do with the choices provided. When we ordered, the waitress was nice, but didn’t understand what we were saying and seemed to be quite unsure of what each of us ordered, but no worries. 3 chicken soups and 1 order of spring rolls came our quite quickly.
The spring rolls were pretty, served with a small salad and a bottle of sticky plum sauce. But, they were a bit bland. Our soups fared better, with a kick of ginger coming through the spices. Chicken soup isn’t pretty to me, but it has to do with the taste, and this tasted good. Would I order it again? No, but I still think the three of us did better than Danielle on this occasion.
Very soon after, our mains arrived. My beef salad was one of the oddest salads I’ve had. It consisted of slices of beef over a couple of pieces of lettuce, some mint, coriander, peppers, spring onion and a sweet chili sauce. It was all sat beside a pile of rice that seemed to dwarf the actual salad. The flavours of the salad were good, but it was nothing that blew me away and the rice seemed out of place, but with a small salad, I think the plates needed filling. Danielle’s chicken yakatori looked pretty, but she was not impressed with the gravy over the salad on which the skewers were propped. B’s sliced beef came with a fried egg on top (odd) and looked suspiciously like a variation on a roast dinner.
We decided that we didn’t want to try our luck with the coffee and so paid our bill and headed out.
Throughout the course of the meal, the service was great, and the place nice and smart, but the food for their lunch menu let it down. But I may be convinced to return at night, even if it is only to try this mythical spaghetti.
Three Thai meals in a week! This was scarcely by design, but our trips to Phuket Pavilion and Time 4 Thai had both been joyous in their own special ways, so why not round out a busy (but very productive) week with some more lemongrass-infused treats.
Today we were joined by Jenny from Yelp and Danielle from Edinburgh Foody, both of whom are fellow Total Food Geeks, but both hadn’t made it along to the open night at Underdogs, so the conversation started with catching them up on events from Tuesday.
We’ve been to some cracking place with Danielle, in the past, with very memorable trips to Kanpai and Castle Terrace, both of which did rather well at the Scottish Restaurant Awards, earlier this week. Jenny missed out at the last minute on that trip to Castle Terrace, but previously quested with us to Thistle Street Thai, Dusit, shortly after she’d been over for a holiday in Thailand. So it was a certain level of expectation that we crossed Leven’s threshold.
As first to arrive (MJ has trained me well), I was warmly welcomed and shown to our window table. I thought the place looked very smart, although MJ’s mention of Time 4 Thai looking like a hotel lobby did start that train of thought running about this place, too.
I was soon joined by the others, and we turned our attention to the short but focussed fixed price lunch menu. I had no trouble choosing, as there was soup to start, and a dish called Gyudon as a main, which seemed to offer the potential for the fusion fireworks that most review of this place seem to suggest are on offer.
Ordering our choices proved much more tricky than the choosing, as our waitress didn’t seem overly familiar with the small number of dishes on the menu. But we got there in the end.
Starters arrived with Thai-style swiftness, and I thought Danielle’s spring rolls looked very smart. The soup wasn’t winning any beauty contests, but had some good flavours, and soft slices of chicken hidden in its depths. It suffered by comparison to the firecracker soup from Time 4 Thai, but was a promising enough start.
My main course was flat out odd. I get that Leven’s is aiming for innovative fusion food, and the dish sounded intriguing enough to make me order it, but it didn’t work. What we had was a tower of plain rice, crisp carrot, broccoli and cauliflower, then soft beef and onions topped with a fried egg, brought together with a thin, sweet, salty “gravy”. It was like a curious version of a roast dinner.
Aside from the gravy, which wasn’t pleasant, each of the elements were fine. They were all very plain, and lacking the kind of punch or complexity you would expect, though. Did the dish work? Not really. Should all the items have been on the same plate together? No, they should not.
Across both dishes the thing that was conspicuous by its absence was citrus pop, pizzazz and zing. The dishes were just a bit brown, which isn’t a colour I’d usually associate with this culinary style.
So overall, Leven’s was disappointing. The welcome was bright, but the dishes were quite bland and muted. The service went beyond attentive in to obtrusive, at times, and once the main courses were done, we made a swift exit and went for tea in a lovely little place, two doors down. Leven’s has attracted some serious adulation in some of its reviews, so I may well give it another visit, perhaps in the evening, to see whether I can figure out what went wrong, today. I’ll make that a solo quest though, as on the basis of today’s meal, I couldn’t recommend the place to others.
Blythe scores Leven’s:
2/5 for food
3/5 for presentation
2/5 for service
3/5 for setting
giving an overall 10/20
MJ scores Leven’s:
2.5/5 for food
3/5 for presentation
3/5 for service
3/5 for setting
giving an overall 11.5/20
Today’s questers were: Miriam, Danielle, Jenny, Blythe
We ate: spring rolls, soup, chicken yakatori, beef salad, gyudon
We drank: sparkly water, water
We wore: brown jacket, blue belt, grey tights, black boots
Total bill: £40