The return to questing, after our little sojourn to the south coast, was a welcome one, and it was delightful to be joined by Danielle for lunch at Mezbaan, the south Indian restaurant in Tollcross.
We’ve been rather neglectful of Indian cuisine, since our quests began, not least because of the overwhelming magnificence of the lunch we had at Mithas, all those months ago. Over the next few weeks, we hope to set that balance right, with trips planned to Mother India, Spice Pavilion and Assam’s.
Mezbaan is one of a growing number of places that offers Indian tapas, an experience I first tried at Roti, many years ago. Mezbaan specialises in dosas, thin, crispy pancakes, filled with a range of tasty fillings, as well as offering tapas style portions of a range of Indian classics, with a strong emphasis on vegetarian dishes, as you would expect from a south Indian place.
I was first to arrive, both from our party, and for the restaurant’s lunchtime service. I had a moment to contemplate the curiously spartan décor. I’m quite the fan of clean white minimalism, but these white-washed walls radiated a sense of incompleteness.
With our merry band assembled, we turned our attention to the menu. Here’s where we started running in to some slightly troubled waters. I have become hugely reliant on the waiting staff in restaurants to make my decisions for me, and I had it in mind to adopt the same approach here. But upon asking a few basic questions about the dishes, it became very clear that we were having communication difficulties. The ordering of dishes was a tortuous process, but we got there in the end.
Our dishes arrived promptly, all in one, for us to sample from the full range with each forkful. The dosas looked good, served simply on segmented trays with a little coconut chutney, and chunky vegetable sauce. To augment these, we had chosen idli, a sort of fluffy rice flying saucer, uthappam, which bore a striking resemblance to a crumpet, and an aubergine dish called bagarey baingan.
My mushroom dosa was extremely nice. The pancake was extremely thin and crisp, and the filling was packed with satisfying flavour. I thought it a really good dish, and one I’d happily devour on a regular basis. The idli, although quite dense to look at, was very light. The crumpety uthappam was good, and I particularly enjoyed the aubergine dish. I was very happy with the selection of food we sampled.
So Mezbaan undoubtedly serves very tasty grub, but the overall restaurant experience feels a little odd. They definitely need to do something about the look of the place, as it feels unfinished. And given that the food they serve is likely to be at least somewhat unfamiliar to many of their customers, their service needs to be entirely more accurate and confident, as I won’t be alone in seeking to rely upon recommendations from the waiters. Despite these shortcomings, I’d still recommend that you pay Mezbaan a visit, as their food is definitely worth the trip.
It was a dreary, soggy day in Edinburgh when I trudged my way over to Mezbaan in Tollcross to have a go at some Indian dosas.
Blythe was already there when I arrived and Edinburgh Foody arrived just a few moments later. After a bit of confusion on ordering our drinks (they didn’t have large bottles of sparkling water), I was not really expecting to be served plastic bottles of Highland Springs.
Luckily for Blythe and I, Edinburgh Foody had recently returned from an epic culinary trip to India where she learned how to make some of the dishes that Mezbaan specialises in and could walk us through what several of the menu items were. But, when she asked certain questions to our waiter, it was more apparent that, A. he didn’t know what exactly we were asking (“what is the bull’s eye masala dosa?” it is an egg dosa, so I gathered). B. English was not his first language and we were speaking too quickly for him.
Either way, ordering was a special process, where it was all Blythe could do to keep himself from just taking the pad and jotting down our simple orders himself.
We ended up each ordering two items from the lunch tapas menu, though what we were served were large and not what I would necessarily call tapas sized. I ordered the Masala Dosa and the Plain Idli, Edinburgh Foody, in her knowledge, ordered the Paneer Masala Dosa and the Uthappam to try.
My dosa was an odd thing. It was like a crepe that is cooked a bit longer and gone crispy on the edges. The inside was barely filled with a cauliflower mix, but seeing the thickness of my companions’ dosas, I think I just ordered incorrectly. The dosa was ok. The filling didn’t reach the edges so I had a fair bit of plain dosa to get through and the filling was missing a note and spoke to me of general Indian spice. The accompanying sambar was tasty and did help lift the dish, though.
My Plain Idli were exactly what they said on the tin: plain, steamed, rice puffs. And though they looked dense, they were light and actually quite a nice contrast to the flavours of the masala and sambar.
The Uthappam was ok. It was something of a cross between a crumpet and a pancake with some onions and spice, but note something I’d seek out again.
There was some trepidation about getting the bill with our communication trouble, but that was silly, as it was brought out quickly. It was odd, though, that the waiter stood by the table took the money and tip as we were trying to get up and put on our rain gear.
Overall, I had heard good things about Mezbaan, but The List’s description of the interior as ‘cold’ is apt, and I’m not going to rush back any time soon.
MJ scores Mezbaan:
2.5/5 for food
3/5 for presentation
2/5 for service
2/5 for setting
giving an overall 9.5/20
Blythe scores Mezbaan:
4/5 for food
3/5 for presentation
2/5 for service
2/5 for setting
giving an overall 11/20
Today’s questers were: MJ, Danielle, Blythe
We ate: masala dosa, paneer masala dosa, mushroom masala dosa, uthappam, plain idli, bagarey baingan
We drank: sparkly water
We wore: lovely multi-coloured scarf; red, white and blue www.tieclub.co.uk tie; boat shoes
Total bill: c.£22