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  • Ruari Sutherland

Cilantro - Indian Bangladeshi cooking in the heart of Leith

The team

Cilantro is the latest creation of Mohammad Abbas, the restaurateur behind a string of successful ventures - most recently, the excellent Bo'ness Spice.

The restaurant is petite, squeezing six tables and a small bar into a narrow strip of Leith Walk real estate (Albert Place, to be exact). It is impeccably decorated, though, and doesn't feel cramped. Arriving, we are treated with a warmth usually reserved for regulars and immediately feel at home. A window seat allows my dining partner to glimpse the bustling activity of a summer evening in Leith.

I often see poppadoms and accompaniments as an insight into a restaurant's philosophy, attention to detail or corners to be cut? Cilantro's arrive warm and crisp and with a fresh and lively pickle.

There is a commitment to quality ingredients here, and skill and experience in the kitchen to turn them into something special. Chefs, owners, and waiters alike clearly take pride in serving an excellent menu.

As starters appear, I can't help but close my eyes to savour the king prawn puri which sees rich, sweet, and sour prawns paired with crisp and flaky deep-fried flatbread. Tandoori Lamb Tikka Kebab, arrives with a waft of smoke and a fresh herby yoghurt sauce.

Tandoori Lamb Tikka Kebab

Our mains balance the starters' richness with fruity Mango Chicken, creamy but also light and fresh. Shatkora Lamb introduces us to the bitter sharp tang of Shatkora - a Bangladeshi citrus fruit - which brings contrast to the big chunks of meat, so tender they begin to fall to pieces on the way to our salivating mouths.

Our side, Bhaji Saag (spinach), is a revelation - roasted garlic and fenugreek meld, lifting the humble leaf to a culinary high.

Rice is fluffy and Peshwari Naan beautifully restrained - sweet without being cloying, thin and light rather than doughy.

There is a freshness to the food here which is a significant departure from the tasty but often heavy and oily standard British Indian restaurant fare.

Cilantro is BYOB for now, with a small corkage fee - but will soon serve a range of alcoholic drinks. One of us is driving, and is treated to a juicy mocktail of the proprietor's own invention - the 'Shami Special'.

Everything about the place is likeable. It's smart and modern without pretension, traditional and authentic without pastiche - a proper neighbourhood restaurant where you are transported to a Bangladeshi-Indian kitchen whilst feeling right at home (R. McKelvie-Sutherland).

Cilantro (True Indian Cuisine) restaurant - 4 Albert Place, Edinburgh EH7 5HN. Tel: 0131 555 0155.

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