Food & Drink

Eat out, drink up


It has been said that when Madam Ae cooked for her family in south east Asia, tears of joy were inspired by the food. After stints with Tawan and Ayutthaya restaurants in Edinburgh, the chef now runs her own kitchen in the recently opened Thaisanuk at 21 Argyle Place in Marchmont. Her chosen ‘madam’ moniker belies the fact that Ms Ae appears to be a twentysomething cook, albeit one with a few tricks up her smock.

Without being all things to everyone, Thaisanuk offers a taste of several south east Asian countries, from starters such as Vietnamese spring rolls and dim sum to mains such as Thai green curry and seven noodle dishes, both ‘dry’ and ‘soup’ style with a choice of meat, fish or tofu. The menu offers straightforward descriptions to assist you. Take Tibetan noodle soup, for example: ‘lndian influence is obvious here with the taste of masala, and thick tagliatelle style noodles make this a more robust dish’. To simplify matters, all starters are priced £4.20 and noodle bowls, £7.95. Other mains are less than £10. Thaisanuk is unlicensed and corkage for wine is an admirable £2 per bottle.

The thin dining room - making the most of earthy hues, coir flooring and some Anime-inspired design - is tiny indeed with banquettes extending the length of both walls and chairs down the centre. You wonder how the space can cope with a full house, which apparently is the case Friday and Saturday. Mid-week, however, with about half the tables full, the atmosphere is pleasant, the service kind and unobtrusive. Music seemed to respond to the hour of the evening: going from Asian power pop to classical to ambient a la Angelo Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks soundtrack at close.

Accepting that it is still early days, the food is a mixed bag if satisfying. Thaisanuk spring rolls were crispy and authentic. But Thai fish cakes, while revealing the promised hints of lime leaf, arrived tepid, dry and a tad spongy. Both dishes came with marvellous spring onion and plum sauces, respectively - surely home-made. We opted for Massaman curry, a departure from the commonplace green or red Thai varieties, being told it had potatoes. Amid nice chunks of chicken, however, and plenty of coarsely chopped (perhaps too much so) onions, none was to be found. Inquiring at the meal’s end, we were informed they had

Tears of joy in Marchmont

run out. No potatoes? In Scotland? Nevertheless, fried tofu seemed an adequate substitute. And it appeared in the order of Malaysian noodle soup with prawns, as well. Soup in this instance is a bit of a misnomer: no broth but quite a mound of sticky noodles in an unctuous, rich sauce. Peanuts dominated the bowl more than was appreciated, but the spicing was brilliantly mouth warming thanks to dried red chillis.

Thalsanuk’s goal is to provide a filling meal with just one main course. Accordingly, there was no room for sweets and, besides, the hour was getting late (although we were entirely left in peace). One final aside, alas: all restaurants offering filter coffee should junk their machines and opt for some single-serving cafetieres instead. The bill for the evening came to a deserved £28.75.

Thaisanuk and its inviting ambience fits the Marchmont district to a tee. While the food may not so emotionally move you to sob with glee, it may well - in tandem with the homely character here - put a smile on your face. (Barry Shelby)

I Thaisanuk, 27 Argyle Place, 0737 227 7 237. Tuesday— Thursday 5. 30—7 7 pm; Frida y—Sunda y noon—2.30pm, 5.30—7 7pm.


Director of doggerfisher art gallery SUSANNA BEAUMONT, current/y features paintings by Janice McNab at the space in Gayfie/d Square, Edinburgh

Where did you eat your last decent dinner? A friend played hunter-gatherer around the kitchen and came up with a surprisingly fine Spread conjured up from the depths

of the fridge. So much more exciting than ordering a take-away.

OK, but what are your favourite bars and restaurants? As I have a very low tolerance of indifferent wine. I am a tad particular [about bars]. If you drink lager you get a choice; if you ask for wine you can get whatever happens to be hanging around. I am an irregular regular at The Barony. The Cumberland serves a highly quaff-able white rioja and The Shore in Leith knows how to make a gin and tonic . . . Not any of that nonsense of serving it a wine glass. With eateries. I am rather promiscuous in that I eat around and have no real firm favourite. So many restaurants trade on pretension. ridiculous sauces and overbearing fancy leaf garnishes. Talk of fusion food and the such is often just a

cover up for third-rate cooking.

I like good-looking restaurants with good food. I often go to a restaurant that serves food of a country that I wish I was in. For example. The Marrakech on London Street serves really tasty Moroccan food. I am fond of Khushi's on Broughton Street: they must serve the largest naans in town. Cafe DOC is good and I like the fact that you have to wait a decent length of time before you get the food you ordered. You really get the sense that it is being cooked specially for you. And where would you go for your last supper? I don't think I would be in the mood for a proper sit-down supper in a restaurant. I might be demanding and ask to be transported to another country perhaps Egypt or somewhere in the North West Frontier.

Side dishes

Extra he/pings of news

FRANGO IS A NEW VENTURE in Glasgow‘s Italian Centre from restaurateur Alan Tomkins and chef Derek Marshall. The premises at 15 John Street (0141 552 4433) is the old Cafe Rouge, so it comes with conservatory and outdoor seating. The Tomkins- Marshall partnership at Gamba has been an unalloyed accomplishment. But while it is upmarket and focused on fish, Frango offers a moderately priced all-day a la carte menu: examples include Toulouse sausages, garlic mash and onion gravy (£7.95) or pasta salad with sun-blush tomatoes, pesto, olives and parmesan (£5.95). Morning selections, served from 9am till noon feature pastries as well as a toasted crumpet with black pudding, smoked bacon and fried egg (£4.95). GORDON YUILL HAS TAKEN his successful all—day brasserie formula and opened a second operation in the West End. At 2 Byres Road (0141 337 1145). Yqu recasts the former Beetlenut site With his clean contemporary style. booths With leather upholstery. sen/mg the same selections as the City centre flagship. Gordon YLIIH and Company is open seven days from 8am, With last orders at 10.30pm.

IN EDINBURGH, A NEW BAR in Thistle Street has been christened after the invisible rabbit in a classic Jimmy Stewart film: Harvey. The pub is owned by effervescent 28-year-old Eirny Sigurdardottir, who was born in Iceland and lived in Africa before settling in the capital a decade ago. Although this is her first solo venture, she seems a natural with the personality of a classic, slightly endangered species: the welcoming publican. Harvey’s is at 39 Thistle Street (0131 478 7029).

BROUGHTON STREET HAS A new cafe/takeaway called Madly Mocha I0131 556 0085) at the corner of Forth Street. Coffees. smoothies. sandwiches on scrummy rolls and soup (With free bread) are the stock and trade of the handsome basement space.

19 Jul—2 Aug 200* THE LIST 1 13