Great Places to Eat in Scotland
- Zest, North St Andrew Street, Edinburgh

The Location
In the heart of both the business and shopping districts, Zest has been a successful Indian restaurant serving contemporary cuisine for the past six years. While many Indian restaurants are congregated down Leith Walk or around the Old Town, Zest has a city centre location on St. Andrew's Square (pictured here), at the far end of George Street and just around the corner from Princes Street. It's ideal for the banks and financial offices nearby and for shoppers browsing around Harvey Nichols and Multrees Walk boutiques. Zest is right beside the bus station and a short walk to Waverley train station - easily accessible for a night out for those living out of town too.

The Restaurant

Forget your usual image of a traditional Indian restaurant in Scotland with plush carpeting, crimson wallpaper and linen tablecloths. Zest is a modern bistro with stripped wood flooring, white walls, blue and red neon lighting, and two neat rows of modern café-style polished birch wood tables and stylish chairs. The entrance is more like a shop front with prime tables in the window for a view over the square. The whole ambience is light, bright and contemporary - the restaurant logo is of a bright orange sunset depicting the zest for food, zest for living.

Asaddar Ali, owner of Zest Restaurant was recently filmed by a team from Bangladeshi digital channel Channel S as part of Spice House, a series about Bangladeshi restaurants around the UK.

Mr Ali said: "The programme makers want to come and see how we operate. They were interested in Zest because we wanted to change the image of restaurants like ours - and get away from the flocked wallpaper to a more modern feel."

The Food
Head Chef and owner Asaddar Ali is keen to present a contemporary Indian cuisine, experimenting with spices, chicken, fish and vegetables, to create new and unique dishes. This is a refreshing change, just like the seasonal menu changes and inventive new dishes you would expect to find in a first class Scottish restaurant. In addition there are all the traditional dishes from Bengal, Bangladesh and North India.

There is an extensive à la carte menu divided into various starters, seafood, chicken and lamb dishes, vegetarian dishes, Tandoori classics, and old favourites. Asaddar Ali has created a new tasting menu of main dishes which are unique to Zest. Fish and seafood specialities are central to Ali's signature dishes. Start perhaps with Salmon Tikka, Scottish salmon marinated in tandoori spices, skewered and baked in a clay oven. The result is a culinary triumph, combining tender flakes of prime fresh pink salmon spiced up with coriander, cumin and nutmeg to draw out the flavour. Prawn Parash is an unusual combination of prawns and kidney beans stir fried with garlic and spices. For meat eaters there is a choice of chicken, lamb and steak kebab starters and for vegetarians, vegetable Pakoras and Chana Puree, puffed bread with tasty chick peas.

For the main course, do try one of the speciality fish and seafood dishes as they are distinctly, deliciously different. Pangush Biran features tasty Bangladeshi cat fish, fried with light spices and served with green vegetables, a superb blend of texture and subtle taste without overpowering the delicate fish. For a hot curry try Chinri hari Mirch Masala, King prawns cooked with green chillies, green pepper and yoghurt. The new tasting menu also offers a lamb dish from Assam, cooked with potato, spices and Sylheti lemon creating a zingy, zesty hot, sour sauce. For traditional Indian cuisine, there's a wide selection of medium Korma, hot Madras and very hot Vindaloo curries and all the usual accompaniments and side dishes - basmati rice, Saag Aloo (spinach and potatoes), Tarka Dhall, (lentils with fried garlic), raita, chapati and peshwari nan bread. After all that you are not likely to have an appetite for pudding - but there is a full menu of traditional Indian desserts and ice-cream.

The Bill
Contact Zest web site for current menu and prices.

Further Information
Zest is located at 15 North St Andrew Street, Edinburgh, beside the bus station. For reservations, telephone (0131) 556 5028. Zest was nominated for Curry City of the year awards 2007. Open 7 days, noon-2pm, 5.30-11.30pm.

The smart interior design creates a modern, relaxed and friendly atmosphere. The staff could not be more welcoming or helpful if you need advice on the menu which combines traditional favourites with contemporary new dishes. Asaddar Ali is a first rate chef creating unusual, unique gourmet dishes combining quality Scottish produce with Indian cooking skills. The seafood specialities are exquisite. Above all, the extremely good value prices should make you ring up and book a table today. The intimate setting with 50 covers makes this restaurant ideal for a private party or corporate function. Definitely worth a visit.

© Vivien Devlin
British Guild of Travel Writers.

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