Tony Singh at the Apex Hotel – SADLY NOW CLOSED
You have to hand it to Lunchquest – not only does he care about the foody needs of the residents of Edinburgh but he is even thinking ahead to making sure tourists get a good meal when visiting our great city. Therefore, with the Festival around the corner, it was off to Tony Singh’s in the Grassmarket for lunch given this is the kind of place unsuspecting visitors will have marketed at them during August.
First impressions were as I expected given the restaurant is in a dull corporate hotel: it is pretty soulless. It made me think of being away at a hotel for work and I expected the waitress to launch into a spiel about helping myself to a breakfast buffet bar. Instead she gave us a warm welcome and an overview of the menu recommending that we order 4 or 5 dishes between us. A promising start. She then disappeared and we were left for 10 minutes hoping to at least order a drink whilst various staff milled about looking bored and studiously ignoring us.
The menu is described as “sharing plates” rather than starters, mains etc. However looking down the list I’m not convinced some of the dishes are designed with sharing in mind. For example when I think sharing plate, I think tapas or a nice plate of meats and cheese (along the lines of the beautiful plates from The Roamin’ Nose) – what I don’t think of is Tony Singh’s Coogate burger (all beef, all Scottish & all tasty according to the menu and coming in at £8.95). To be honest when it comes to burgers, if someone tried to make me share one of BeSpoke BBQ’s burgers they would have to pry it out of my cold dead hand before I gave up a bite willingly…
Anyway, when the waitress finally returned we stuck to our instructions and ordered 5 dishes. Anyone who is familiar with chef Tony Singh will have a good idea of what to expect and I think you are meant to get very excited about the bright yellow menus and promise of amazing flavours.
A quick summary of the food we ordered as follows – some were clearly easier to share than others:
§ Haggis pakora – £6.50. Pretty good – my only experience for comparison have been the oven ones I get occasionally from Margiotta’s on Dundas Street and these were an improvement on them!
§ Poutine – £4.95. I quite enjoyed this – I think more so than Lunchquest! Gravy was pretty good, chips were OK if a little too soggy although the cheese was very bland. However it’s difficult to screw up chips and gravy.
§ Indian Furr Furr Crakers – £2.95. Basically these were the kind of crackers one might expect at a Thai restaurant. Nice and spicy with an interesting (if rather cold from the fridge presumably) mint and chilli jelly. Portion size was a bit measly but otherwise pretty good.
§ Korean Burrito – Lunchquest reminded me that the Guardian had described this dish as “obese and clammy, with all the visual allure of a used nappy clogged with indeterminate vegetable matter; thanks to some mushy haddock, it has the fragrance of one, too.” With praise like this we just had to order it. I’m afraid the dish didn’t live up to the nappy promise. Instead it was just a very bland burrito. It was difficult to share, as it rather fell apart when trying to cut in half, and taste wise it was firmly in the “just OK” category rather than the disaster portrayed by the Guardian – to classify as a disaster, the Guardian has clearly not had the wide ranging experience of Lunchquest such as drinking Soylent or eating Rupy’s vegetable balti…
§ BBQ pork doughnut – £8.50. I’m glad I ate this last as it was essentially a pudding semi-disguised as a main course. It was a bit of a monster with the description being sticky pulled pork in a doughnut dusted with smoked paprika sugar, served with a maple, smoked bacon & Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14YO whisky glaze. This was heavy on the syrup and light (aka almost absent) on the Balvenie. I have a pretty sweet tooth so enjoyed this dish but it left me feeling a bit sick afterwards with sugar overload.
Finally, I ordered a coke which came in the corporate hotel style i.e. 200ml glass bottle for about £2.50. So essentially £1.25 per sip. I should have stuck to tap water.
So all in all I wasn’t a big fan of Tony Singh’s. It’s definitely not the disaster that has been painted by some critics but it is a bit of a mess.
I visited Tony’s Singh’s pop-up at the Apex Hotel in the Grassmarket last August and really rather enjoyed it. It came as something of a surprise to see it established as a permanent fixture but I was pleased to give it a visit to see how it was getting on.
I was joined by the intrepid Dan who most recently quested at Wildmanwood.
The set-up is much as before. It’s a rather formal hotel space that doesn’t immediately seem a good match for an Indian street food fusion menu. It’s smart enough, if a little soulless, and the view is impressive.
Service was rather fragmented and distracted but friendly enough.
After a little bit of contemplation, we settled on five dishes to share: the poutine, furr furr crackers, the BBQ pork doughnut, the Korean burrito, and the haggis pakora. Dishes arrived as they were ready.
First up was the star of the show, the furr furr crackers. These were like little multi-coloured quavers and were decidedly addictive. The accompanying mint and chilli jelly was really good.
The haggis pakora were as reliably tasty as ever.
The remaining dishes didn’t really hit the same heights. I still remain unconvinced by poutine but continue to keep trying with it. This was fairly ordinary stuff.
The Korean burrito was filling but didn’t pack much punch. We’d left the pork doughnut until last which was lucky as it was so sweet that it basically functioned as dessert.
I couldn’t help thinking that things didn’t have the same coherence as when it was a Festival pop-up. The menu is essentially sharing snacks that work OK for a bite on the go. But without the Festival shows, the place isn’t particularly well located to work as a pre and/or post theatre offering so feels rather like a round peg in a square hole.
So overall, the fare on offer at Tony Singh’s is very decent and you’ll be pleased enough with what you get if you pop in for a quick Festival bite. The place doesn’t make much sense to me, though, so I’d be just as surprised to see it endure as I was to see it extended beyond its original Festival pop-up scope.
Blythe scores Tony Singh
3.5/5 for food
3.5/5 for presentation
3/5 for setting
2/5 for service
giving an overall 12/20
Today’s questers were: Dan, Blythe
We ate: haggis pakora, Korean burrito, furr furr crackers, BBQ pork doughnut, poutine
We drank: cola, water
Total bill: £34.40
Address: Apex International, 31-35 Grassmarket, Old Town, Edinburgh EH1 2HS