Great Places to Eat in Scotland
- Pataka Indian and Bengali Restaurant, Edinburgh

The Location
This is your archetypical city neighbourhood Indian Restaurant and Take-away, popular with local residents from Newington, student land around Marchmont, the Meadows and fringes of the Old Town. But its unique Indian/Scottish charm, cosy romantic ambience and speciality Bengali cuisine draws hungry diners from across the city. If you don't want to drive, jump on the 42 bus, which stops virtually on its doorstep on Causewayside, five minutes from the centre of town.

Pataka is actually featured in one of Ian Rankin's crime novels, when the restaurant was visited by the famous fictional Detective Inspector Rebus, who is based nearby at St Leonard's police station. He was probably investigating the fact that Pataka been named "one of the top ten Indian Restaurants in Scotland". (Scotland on Sunday)

The Restaurant

The name pataka means a flag or banner to denote a welcome or celebration. You will certainly receive a warm welcome by owner-manager Noonu Miah (pictured here) and a couple of his smiling staff. The décor has to be seen to be believed. Formerly a Scottish-French restaurant, the interior design has remained unchanged, and modelled on the art nouveau style of Charles Rennie McIntosh. The walls are decorated with his linear figures and iconic pink roses while the seating features his trademark high-backed, throne-like chairs as well as carved wooden booths. It's all very attractive and extremely comfortable, ideal for an intimate meal for two, or a large party of friends.

Many diners visiting a French or Italian restaurant understand key culinary words and phrases when selecting dishes on the menu. To inform his own diners, Pataka owner Noonu Miah offers helpful language lessons, translating a few Bengali words used in the dishes, such as murgh, meaning chicken. He has also created a phrase book including key Bengali expressions diners can use when speaking to waiters. Being able to say kamen attho? (how are you) and donadae, (thank you) at Pataka certainly adds to the warm, friendly atmosphere.

The Food

Unlike some Indian restaurants, the menu here is short, concise and user friendly, with clearly marked sections for complete dinner banquets (for 2 or 4), starters, mains, sides and vegetarian dishes. Each dish is carefully described with details of whether it's mild or spicy. First perhaps sample Murgh Tikka, chicken kebabs with a savoury sauce to get the taste buds working, or do try one or two of their classic vegetarian starters - Pataka Pakura, Tel Baigan - spicy slices of sautéed fresh aubergine or Gujerati Poore, deep fried pancakes stuffed with lentils. Main dishes offer an appetising choice where you can select your style and strength of curry, a delicate coconut rich Kurma or a hot mouth tingling Bhuna with either chicken, lamb or king prawn. North Indian specialities include a spicy Garlic Chicken, cooked with fresh green chillies, peppers and tomatoes, and Lamb Passanda - marinated in a heady concoction of garlic, ginger, yoghurt, turmeric, coriander, cumin, nutmeg and cayenne pepper then coated in a creamy almond sauce. Highly recommended is Chat Pottie - a rich spicy stew of chickpeas, lentils, eggs, spring onion, fresh coriander and pungent spices. Add a side dish of Aloo Gobi, cauliflower and potato bhaji, a bowl of Pilau basmati rice and large nan bread for a fabulous, healthy, tasty feast.

Pataka gets 10/10 for placing hot plates on the table for the main course. Whether you are with one or a few dining companions, all your respective dishes, side orders and rice are kept hot so that you can share the banquet, sampling a little from each platter, as you wish.

After all that coriander, garlic and chilli you may like to finish with something sweet - perhaps Kulfi, almond ice-cream, lychee or banana split.

In March 2007 Pataka was chosen by the public as one of five restaurants to represent Edinburgh in the Curry Capital of Britain 2007 Competition. No wonder. Let's hope the judges enjoy their meal at Pataka as much as I have.

The Bill
See for current menu and prices.

Further Information
Pataka is at 190 Causewayside Street, five minutes from the centre of town. Telephone 0131 6681167 for reservations.

Experiencing dinner at this tiny restaurant was a real treat and a great surprise - hidden away around the corner from the buzz of Newington. No wonder locals return week after week, or call in for a take-away. So popular, it's open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner. You certainly don't have to eat in the city centre to enjoy fine dining. The genuine Indian hospitality, artistic setting, elegant high back chairs (or reserve a private booth) and delicious, freshly cooked authentic Bengali food all combine to create the perfect restaurant. Add to that the great value menu, and attentive, friendly service - complete with refreshing hand towels. And remember to ask for a Bengali language lesson over dinner to make you appreciate even more the intricacies of classic Indian cuisine.

Vivien Devlin, British Guild of Travel Writers
March 2007

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