Food Drink

Eat out, drink up

Soft cellar

9 Cellars: a cosy maze of conjoined vaults

Thomas Tivnan finds that 9 CELLARS sets new standards for Indian food in the capital.

pened in October 2003 by chef and proprietor PC

Thakur. the innovative 9 Cellars Restaurant and Bar

raises the standards for Indian restaurants across lidinburgh. Next door to the Stand Comedy Club. its nondescript frontage belies the treasures inside. Guests literally step down into 9 Cellars. for the main dining space is a subterranean maze of conjoined vaults. This lends the space flexibility: a couple may canoodle in one secluded cubby hole of their own. blissfully undisturbed by a large group in another part of the basement.

The mood is chilled-out bliss with lilac and purple walls. subtle trance music and tninimalist. yet comfy furnishings. The small but discerning wine list. varied bottled beers and many mixed drinks would rival any style bar: the tnadras cocktail (vodka. cranberry and orange juice) in particular has a deceptively fruity kick.

But food is where 9 Cellars truly shines. with Thakur’s inventive. pared-down menu. He previously worked at Kalpna. also in Edinburgh. but the experience he is probably most proud of is his longer stint with the Grand Hyatt in India. where be cooked a range of sub-continental cuisine.

At 9 Cellars. you're likely to find dishes never seen before in lidinburgh. The chicken shikumpuri kebab starter is a Hyderabadi speciality. delicately spiced poultry with stuffing

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made of egg and nuts. (loan fish curry is tangy and sweet while the dosa is a cheese and onion pancake (with a choice of filling) smothered in creamy coconut chutney. The main courses are nicely complemented by side dishes. such as an aromatic ginger and garlicky dhal or the meal-in-itsclf paratha bread. stuffed with either chicken. cheese or potato.

Service matches the foods excellence. with earnest and informative waiters. And despite the swish locale. prices (which include superb lunch and pre-theatre deals) are much the same as any standard curry house. Certainly Thakur must be happy. More auteur than entrepreneur. he is responsible for nearly everything in the restaurant. llc dreamt up the menu. cooks the meals and occasionally brings the food to the tables himself. The design and layout are his concept and he built 9 Cellars with his own hands.

Diners might begin each meal by pausing to appreciate Thakur and cos hard graft (which he says included the excavation of a metre of earth frotn the bottom level). Maybe the hordes have yet to descend upon 9 Cellars. but that will change. Thakur‘s labour of love won’t be neglected for too much longer.

9 Cellars, 1-3 York Place, Edinburgh, 0131 557 9899, open Mon—Sun noon-2.30pm, 5.30-1 1pm.



Youth remains the holy grail for the retail business. and the story is no different with distillers. While the mall whiskies from Jon. Mark and Robbo are not aimed only at neophytes. they are geared to an audience broader than that normally associated with the spirit. Their three whiskies have names that are descriptive. such as the ‘Rich Spicy One' or the ‘Smooth Sweeter One'.

The whisky itself isn't the product of amateurs. The ‘Robbo' of the trio is David Robertson, once the youngest master distiller with Macallan. Blends such as the “Rich Spicy One' (including ‘96 Highland Park and ‘97 Bunnahabhain) have a warm. fairly feisty finish. As for the whisky's 'yoof' appeal. these well intentioned whisky enthusiasts may find that the kids still prefer alco-pops to uisge beatha. (Barry Shelby)

I Available at Oddbins (priced £77 7) or online at [on/iiarkanrl/‘

News to nibble on . . .

I IN EDINBURGH, AMBER is the name of the soon to be launched restaurant in the Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre near the castle. The 40-seat dining room will be open evenings Thursday to Saturday and, uniquely, will feature a whisky expert in a sommelier-style role, assisting diners on which

malts might go best with

their meals. There will be more than 270 whiskies from which to choose. Amber head chef David Neave says whisky will only be used in cooking when appropriate: ‘I might put a splash of Island whisky with shellfish or scallops and I’ve used Orkney whisky with organic beef, but I am passionate about all Scottish produce and the menus will reflect this.’

I IN LEITH. A NEW restaurant with chef Joe Taggart. who worked at Martin Wishart and Amaryllis. has opened at 78 Commercial Street. Palourde (French for clam) features mostly fish and seafood dishes. such as potted shrimps. salmon gravadlax. poached monk fish tails or roast halibut. Prices are reasonable, about $34.50 to £7 for starters and £10.50 to £15.50 for main courses. Some may remember the premises as the Rock, but a pretty complete renovation has taken place and the space also doubles now as a gallery with works from Hunter Fine Art. For bookings call 0131 555 7663

I FINALLY, A CORRECTION. Tapa Coffee & Bakehouse is on Whitehill Street in Dennistoun, Glasgow. And since we reported on the organic and vegetarian bakery last issue, it has increased its seating by 75%. There’s now a total of seven seats and a second table’s been added.