Great Places to Eat in Scotland
- Voujon, Newington Road, Edinburgh
Voujon is a Bengali and Northern Indian restaurant on the Newington Road in Edinburgh, which is part of a long straight artery leading south from Princes Street, before heading on as the A701 to the Scottish Borders. The Newington area of Edinburgh is thus not in the heart of the Capital but is easily reached from there by public transport or by car.
Nearby, is the Royal Commonwealth Swimming Pool, the University of Edinburgh Pollok Halls of Residence (that's the administration building illustrated here), the Meadows parkland and, a few blocks away, the wide open spaces of Holyrood Park, if you feel like having a brisk walk after a good meal!
Although Newington is still within Edinburgh's parking meter zone, it was good to find that the charging level was not as high as the city centre - especially useful if you are having a leisurely lunch.
Approaching Voujon, the first thing that strikes you is that the frontage is probably the smartest-looking on the block - a great advertisement for the design firm across the road that did the work! Inside the decor is attractive, relaxed and spacious. There is hint of eastern promise from the oak wood panels, the sprays of flowers and the pleasant but subdued sound of Indian music in the background. Tables are well spaced out and the seating is extremely comfortable. For larger groups or special occasions, there is also a separate "party suite" at the rear of the premises.
Salim Miah moved to Edinburgh 25 years ago as a youngster and opened Voujon (a word meaning, most appropriately, "Invitation to Dine") in 2005. Like the owners of many family-run businesses, he has a passion for what he does and throughout the meal I was conscious of the thought that had gone into the detail not just of the food but of the presentation as well.
The waiters were extremely efficient and attentive, but at the same time were relaxed and actually seemed to enjoy being there!
You wouldn't expect that the first item in this section would be about the soft drinks my lunch companion and I had - but remember that comment about attention to detail? So they came not in the usual standard glasses, but tall, fluted ones, which got us off to a great start while we perused the menu.
That took a while - the menu runs to ten pages. A nice touch is the introductory page which, amongst other things, sets out the underlying philosophy of Voujon and its staff. "In choosing Voujon you have paid us the compliment and set us the task of living up to your standards. We have endeavoured to create an atmosphere which combines the elegance and sophisticated ambience with all the flavour, colour and aroma of Bangladesh and Northern India." By the end of the meal, we reckoned that Voujon had fulfilled their "task" with flying colours.
But back to that menu - our task was to select a starter and main course from the mouth-watering selection. How about King Prawn Partha with Puri - king prawns in a subtle sauce, enhanced by fresh coriander, on a bed of puffed fried bread and accompanied by salad? Or Macher Bora - a selected variety of fish kebabs served with a special sauce and accompanied by salad. In the end, I went for the Boti Kebab. This was lamb kebabs served with special sauce and salad. Once again, presentation was first class - as you can see from the illustration. The attractive look of the dish was confirmed with the nicely tender and spicy lamb kebabs, with the flavours building up with each mouthful. My lunch companion, who is particularly keen on spicy food, had opted for the Murgh Chatt. This consisted of small pieces of chicken, cooked with tomatoes and cucumber, in a hot and spicy sour sauce. For local Scottish palates, Indian restaurants often tone down the degree of spiciness, but this one was declared to be satisfyingly hot by my companion.
And so to the main course. But what to have, when the choice is so wide? Methi Gost sounded interesting (lamb with methi - fenugreek seeds used as a spice), but then, so did Fish Dupiaza (salmon in a medium strength sauce of cubed onions and green peppers. The classic dishes such as Chicken Jalfrezie or Biryani and Lamb Passanda were also on offer, as was a range of "Voujon Classics" made from chicken lamb or king prawn. For the growing number of vegetarians, there is a larger than usual choice on the Voujon menu.
After much consideration, I went for the Chicken Dhansak. This dish has its origins in Persia where it was a special dish presented at a feast. The Indian version has the addition of lentil sauce and is sometimes described as a sweet and sour curry, with a pineapple ring included for added sweetness and contrast. Initially, I found the spices to be quite mild but gradually the flavours built up on my taste buds and reached a crescendo by the end.
My companion, who eats a lot of Indian-style food at home and so is keen on the spicier varieties, opted for the Jhal Bhuna. This was described on the menu as a "hot, moist curry to make your mouth dance" - and that was duly confirmed - with relish!
The portions were generous and, accompanied by a dish of Pilau Rice, satisfyingly filling, so we decided to miss the dessert stage (assorted ice-creams, including Kulfi, an almond flavoured variety, and fresh fruits such as mango and lychees) and finished instead with coffee. Normally, I wouldn't think of taking a photo of a cup, but true to that attention to detail (mentioned more than once in this review), even the coffee cups, with their unusual curved handles, caused us to blink. Oh, and the cafetière of coffee tasted good too!
Contact Voujon Web site for current menu and prices.
Voujon is at 107 Newington Road, Edinburgh. For reservations, telephone 0131-667 5046. For more information, see the Voujon Web site or e-mail mail@Voujon.com.
As I wandered off to nearby Holyrood Park after our lunch at Voujon, the sun was shining and the sky was blue. Surely this was not another example of Salim Miah's attention to detail? I'm sure if he could organise the weather, he would do so as meticulously as all the other aspects of his excellent restaurant!
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