Haldi - an Indian restaurant that is not a formulaic curry house
‘Hidden gem’ is an overused phrase, but Haldi is just that. Haldi means turmeric in Hindi and, like the use of spice in the dishes, the décor reflects this bold yellow as an accent colour rather than a garish splash. The space is cosy with about 30 covers, and even on a midweek evening, most tables are taken by 8 pm (best book first). Situated on the southside of Edinburgh, this wee treasure is more upmarket than your regular curry house. Eschewing the formulaic baltis, bhunas, kormas et al. Haldi offers a more refined menu; here you will find scallops with a fruity relish, sea bass in a masala sauce and lamb cooked in tomatoes, chilli, ginger, and aniseed. What owner Madan is trying to achieve (and in my opinion, succeeding) is to present food with spicing that doesn’t detract from the main ingredient; dishes are fragrant and fresh but pack a punch when needed; spices are present to enhance.
We are greeted by Madan, who has a welcoming smile and easy charm as he escorts us to our table. You can choose from the al la carte or the tasting menu. We opt for the former with Madan carefully explaining the dishes and making recommendations (Mr H isn’t a fan of ginger or coriander leaf *eye roll*).
We start with a complimentary fried rice and soft cheese ball dotted with a green herb sauce followed by crisp, non-greasy poppadoms that arrive with a trio of chutneys, all homemade - not a commercial jar in sight. There’s a fruity roasted berry, a chunky mango, and a wildly garlicky tomato. Next up is a bowl of Kurkuri Bhindi aka okra, thin strips deep-fried and coated in a spice blend of turmeric, chilli, ground coriander seed, cumin, and coconut flour. It is a vibrant snack, all golden, crunchy, and gone in a flash apart from a slight frisson of a tingle left on our lips.
Mains are substantial. Mr H has Lamb Shank that has been marinated overnight in a spice blend that includes saffron and turmeric. It is a beast, meat eager to leave the bone and tumble into a creamy saffron sauce, the earthy tones from the crocus stigmas are nicely balanced, accentuating the flavour of the lamb. My Chicken Biryani is also impressive. Served in a clay pot, peeling back its bready cloak releases the heady scent of cardamom, a hint of cinnamon and cloves, and the subtle scent of coriander seed. Chicken is soft and yielding, rice fluffy and savoury from the bird’s juices. Sides are striking and have been treated with the same respect as the entrees; the Dal Bukhara is a rich, silky blend of black lentils, spices, tomato, cream and butter, and a blindingly good smoked aubergine mash, Baingan Bhartha. Both are perfect for scooping onto the light garlic naan (Madan thinks the snowshoe-shaped ones are too big and heavy). All diners are given a vegetarian side of the day, and tonight it’s a potato and aubergine dish.
And then there is dessert… I'm a sucker for most Indian puds, and the three on the menu are lovingly made in the kitchen – Gajar Ka Halwa made from carrots spiked with cardamom and dusted with chopped pistachio, the Indian ice cream Kulfi flavoured with coconut and saffron, and my all-time favourite has to be Gulab Jamun - warm milk dumplings in cardamom syrup. Sometimes these sweets can be sickly and cloying, but not a chance with these morsels, they are light, sticky, and utter bliss.
What Madan and his team have achieved with this wee restaurant in less than six months is awe-inspiring. It is so atypical of what one expects from an Indian restaurant, it’s as fresh and appealing as the food Haldi serves. Oh, and they also do takeaway too! (L. Harris)
Haldi - 38 Mayfield Gardens, Edinburgh, EH9 2BY, United Kingdom
T: 0131 241 8938
M: 0758 717 9407
Monday to Saturday: 4 pm to 10:30 pm
Sunday: 4 pm to 09:30 pm