Friday, 11 November 2011

9 Cellars

I was really quite excited about visiting 9 Cellars.  Not only because it's been a while since I've had a good curry, but also because the menu presents choices quite refreshingly different to the majority of other Indian restaurants in Edinburgh.

Let's get distracting first impressions out of the way - the underground entrance is not particularly inviting, but then that's not wholly unusual in Edinburgh.  Interior is... basic...and very orange, but I've eaten in worse.  We were seated at the front of the restaurant so didn't get a feel for the rabbit warren of cellars that, almost unbelievably, can seat around 100.  But with only a couple of other tables occupied on a Thursday night, lack of atmosphere was an issue; thankfully some music was put on at some point, helping to lift the mood from dreary to bearable.  We did have a bit of a gripe about the tiny tables for two.  Call me a glutton, but I prefer not to have to worry about whether all the food ordered can be squeezed on to the space, and we gave the interesting selection of sides a miss for just that reason.

With few 'classic' British curry dishes on the menu, we were delighted to have difficulty choosing from a diverse selection of authentic regional dishes.  Chicken Ka Chilla and Ajwani Jinga got us off to a blinding start.  The Ka Chilla was oustanding - a thin and tasty pancake (made from, I think, gram flour flavoured with chilli and cumin) enveloping succulent tikka'd chicken in a well spiced thick sauce.  The Jinga were good sized firm and meaty prawns in an anjwain flavoured batter - clearly skillfully deep fried to a light and crisy finish.
Chicken Ka Chilla
Ajwani Jinga
The sarters though raised expectations which sadly weren't lived up to by the mains.  To be fair, I went against my instinct to continue on the pancake theme with a Dosa, opting instead for the Lal Mass.  The other half, on his usual quest for a decent chilli hit, went for North Indian Garlic Chilli Chicken.

Lal Mass
North Indian Chilli Garlic Chicken
Both dishes suffered from the standard curry base treatment; looking and tasting almost identical with only minor tweaks in spicing.  I've nothing against a good curry base, but it needs more attention than this to turn it in to a special dish.  These, while completely edible, were no more than chunks of (admittedly good) lamb and chicken in a thick, slightly gloopy, sauce.  The Lal Mass in particular, which I had been really looking forward to, conveyed little of the intense dried chilli colour and flavour that typifies this traditional Rajasthani dish.

Rice, chapati, spinach & garlic parantha
Rice and chapati were average, but the spinach & garlic stuffed parantha was really rather good.  Pints of Cobra are good value at £3.30 in relation to city centre prices.

Overall we'll probably give 9 Cellars another go, mainly as the starters showed so much promise. Big disappointment this time that our choice of mains let the overall meal down.

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