Having opened around the turn of the century to considerable acclaim, Britannia Spice at the Ocean Terminal end of Commercial Quay, had oddly eluded my attention until a crisply chill recent evening took me to its door.
The name obviously alludes to the nearby Royal Yacht Britannia which is one of the city’s most popular tourist draws.
The interior has been decked out in nautical style with staff made to wear crew uniforms. The worn banquettes and profusion of poorly cleaned wine glasses on all the tables gave the sense of the place having been left untouched for many a decade. It was almost as if it had started out as a Howard’s Way theme restaurant in 1985 then morphed into the Britannia theme when the boat arrived. It’s in dire need of refurbishment.
The proudly displayed award for Les Routiers’ newcomer of the year 2001 is also in need of removal particularly when it’s given equal prominence as a much more recent and credible AA rosette.
The place was very sparsely populated with only one other table populated. In an alarming development it soon became clear that they weren’t having the best luck as their meal ended up being discounted by 50% after they found hair in one of their dishes.
Anyhoo, I turned my attention to the menu and buckled in. I started with their sweet and sour prawn puree then followed with the shatkora lamb. I added saag aloo and a plain naan.
The starter arrived looking pretty underwhelming. I order prawn puree fairly often and have not previously had it served in this sweet and sour style. It didn’t make much sense to me and the dish was very oily. One of the prawns had half the shell on its tail which although it was vaguely alarming to bite into, given the hair-
raising stuff at the next table I suppose wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened.
In amazing news, the main course was very good. The lamb was brightly spiced and deeply tender. It was a really strong dish that I enjoyed a lot. The saag aloo and naan were not quite to the same standard but it was still very pleasing fare.
I was left to ponder a place that clearly has its best days well behind it, has the ineffable whiff of a dead restaurant walking, but yet still has some potential in terms of what they seem capable of when things fire correctly.
So overall, it’s hard to reach a coherent verdict on Britannia Spice. There are clearly some deeply problematic things going on, and it needs investment to bring it up to modern restaurant standards, but there’s enough to indicate that with fresh impetus and direction this could once again be a valued business. For now, I might recommend judicious ordering and use of their delivery service as the restaurant space is currently an embarrassment.
Blythe scores Britannia Spice
3/5 for food
3/5 for presentation
1.5/5 for setting
3/5 for service
giving an overall 10.5/20
I ate: poppadoms; prawn puree; lamb, saag aloo, naan
I drank: large lager
I wore: denim pantaloons
Total bill: £32
Address: 150 Commercial Street, Edinburgh EH6 6LB