Today, after the sun came out and I made the terrible discovery that Assam’s was not, in fact, open, Blythe quickly shot down the other suggestions that were tossed into the sunshine, and we headed down the road to Punjab’n de Rasoi. I have been passing this wee place ever since I moved down to Leith, and I had always wanted to pop in for a visit but never found the chance. But today was the day.
And what a day to go, the large window fronts allow the light to filter in and make the whole place feel bright and serene. The white cloths handing from the ceiling somehow grant it a more intimate air and the gentle Indian music playing in the background mingles well with the rich aroma of blended spices.
We sat near the window and looked over the relatively small (for an Indian restaurant/café) menu which was perfectly formed and still offered a variety of choice in the realm of curries, daal, and pakoras. Both Blythe and I, however, chose the Thali, I the veggie and he the fish.
It took no time at all for our lunch to arrive in shiny metal trays with a large popadom on top. I passed mine over to Blythe and enjoyed the smell. We had curry, daal, yoghurt, a salad, rice with cumin, a chapatti and a popadom, all for the simple sum of £7.95.
The curry was well judged in flavour and spice and was nice with its potatoes and aubergines. The rice was as good an example of rice as I’ve ever had in an Indian restaurant, and the daal was well flavoured and moreish, I was mixing yoghurt with everything and even gave the chapatti a go. A perfect serving size, really.
I have to say that in lieu of our main destination being closed, we really got to go to a gem of a restaurant instead; one that does good work in the community and serves up my favourite kinds of simple, very well done food for a fair price. I’ll happily go back and try the other things on the menu, or just to read and have a cup of tea, and I suggest you go as well.
Open from Wednesday to Saturday, the Punjabi Women’s Kitchen is understated, bright, full of welcoming aromas. It’s one of those places you want to make sure everyone knows about, yet still retains its winning charm, and always has a free table with your name on it. But that is to jump to the end without first examining the enjoyable sequence of events that led me to this conclusion.
Last week’s sunshine has renewed our faith in the Scottish weather, so today’s return of the sun (if not the warmth), was greeted with a level of nonchalant acceptance. Restaurant, café and bar owners are geared up for a bumper, four day, Jubilee weekend, and this lunchtime felt like the calm before the storm.
Our original plan had been to visit Assam’s, but they don’t open for lunch service (well, not until 2pm, anyway), a fact that had somehow eluded our attention. So, our attention turned to what alternative Indian entertainment was in the neighbourhood, and we soon settled upon Punjab’n de Rasoi, a place that had long been on our list to visit, but had never quite found a home in the schedule. Today was the day!
At this point, we should perhaps pause to reflect upon why we’ve been visiting a succession of Indian restaurants during the height of the sunny season. When reflecting upon our quests over the past months, we have been slightly neglectful of Indian cuisine. Or perhaps more accurately, since our visit to the peerless Mithas, a number of the Indians that we’ve visited haven’t quite hit the mark. For reasons that will become clearer in the next month or so, seeking out a few more places that we’d be comfortable to recommend has become something of a priority.
Anyhoo, we took ourselves on a little trip down Leith Walk and soon alighted at our destination. Established as a social enterprise by Sikh Sanjog, to support women and their families from the Sikh and minority ethnic communities, the café is a considerable success story. The wonderful Madhur Jaffrey spent a day filming here, last month, so look out for that coming to a television screen near you, soon.
From their simple menu of Indian staples, we both opted for the thali, which comprised curry (fish for me, vegetable for MJ), daal, fragrant rice, chapatti, yoghurt and poppadom. This came on a segmented metal tray, which was simple but effective presentation.
Poppadoms were fresh and crisp, and when MJ offered me hers, I was delighted to snaffle it from her. The chapatti was plain but nicely made, the rice was beautifully fragrant, with bursting little capsules of cumin seed loveliness, and the daal was just lovely. The main attraction, though, was as good a fish curry as I’ve ever been served.
So, to return to my initial point, Punjab’n de Rasoi is very good, and demands a visit. I suggest you make yours soon, and if you are planning to go, feel free to drop me a line and invite me along, as it’s the kind of place I’d be delighted visit again and again.
MJ scores Punjab’n de Rasoi:
4/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
4/5 for service
4/5 for setting
giving an overall 16/20
Blythe scores Punjab’n de Rasoi:
4/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
3.5/5 for service
4/5 for setting
giving an overall 15.5/20
Today’s questers were: Miriam, Blythe
We ate: vegetable thali, fish thali
We drank: water
We wore: red, grey and black www.tieclub.co.uk tie; magnificent boots
Total bill: c.£16