The world on your (paper) plate
Jimmy’s Fried Chicken and Sabzi
Promised restaurant opening dates have become mirage-like. Frankly, this glutton is ravenous.
Oh for half a lobster down by the Shore! Oh for a weekend brunch at Nobles! Oh for dehydrated lingonberries on a wheaten ginger sablé at Borough! (At least if you can get a table now they’ve been featured in National Geographic magazine.)
Just as they say that thing about necessity and invention, lockdown is the sous-chef of street food. Indeed, there’s barely a street in Leith that isn’t delivering, hatching, popping-up or otherwise filling the local belly in a delicious and covid secure way.
On the coffee map, Toast, The Hideout, and Printworks describe a perfect equilateral triangle, and they are equally good. Though their pastries differ: this household has a slight leaning towards the Hideout’s honey cake.
Sometimes a pastry won’t do; you need a slice of cake - proper, filthy, homemade cake that’s been baked with much love. When such moods call, The Bad Tempered Baker – erroneously named actually, they are super friendly – stands ready to serve Mammy’s favourite Northern Irish baking. Find it opposite the police station.
We hear good things about BAM coffee on Salamander Street. Williams and Johnston at Custom House remains a top-class roaster, attracting a trendy crowd: think half Macbook architect, half man bun and a splash of tie-dyed long johns waggling over the quayside.
If you’re about over the weekend, Leith is well treated. The Saturday market is a firm favourite now that they’ve worked out not everyone is a fruitarian.
A fish stall from the west coast has started making welcome appearances under the quirky banner ‘Fresh Fash’, and has swiftly, and rightly, been garnering queues.
Andy and Heike bring their Buddy Kombucha twice a month, and it’s well worth the fortnightly wait. Knight’s Kitchen (now with a new home on Leith Walk), sells excellent Kenyan food.
However, Wild Maremma, known hereabouts as ‘the pasta lady’, is the absolute standout. With a shop and kitchen at Granton, her market stall sells the best pasta I’ve eaten this side of Bologna, and better than some there too.
They always have filled and unfilled shapes to take home, with occasional hot food. We sheltered in torrential rain waiting for the boar ragu to cook, and it was more than worth every cold, dripping, lockdown drop.
Sadly, the pandemic has paused the Crops in Pots Sunday market at Leith Links community croft; good eating was to be had there too.
If Domenico’s on Sandport Street is offering takeaway anywhere near as good as its previous sit-down offer, it’s worth the queues. Bundits on Constitution Street has longer queues than it perhaps deserves, although it is decent enough. A bao bun and smacked cucumber were too-notch; fried chicken was sad and under-fried.
Sabzi, the best of the newcomers, isn’t even in Leith but all the way up at The Dudleys on Ferry Road. They have been doing a roaring trade with mother-and-son Punjabi food to go.
The keema toastie was filthy good, and the soor bhature (pork on fried bread) exceptional, with phenomenal complexity of flavour. Menus change each weekend. If you check out just one new place this month, make it the wondrous Sabzi.
Coming late to the party is Tapa, whose pre-pandemic food was consistently excellent, a mile away from insipid chains whose creativity stops and starts with patatas bravas.
The new weekend pop up menu is pretty much paella, and although I haven’t done the necessary pre-ordering for collection, it’s next on my list and these folk don’t generally disappoint.
However, if anywhere has won the lockdown pop-up game, it is the innovative Nauticus on Duke Street.
Their ‘hatch series’ allowed a drink and a bite on the street, next to the bins. And even during the ban on public drinking the hatch continues.
Standout weekend residencies have included The Peruvian (think yucca fries and deep fried pastry taquenos filled with melted cheese and guacamole), Taberu (here you’ll find okonomiyaki, the Japanese cabbage pancake that is a thousand times better than it sounds) and, of course, Jimmy’s Fried Chicken.
The latter is phenomenal (indeed now a full blown phenomenon), but the council’s licencing team objected to the lack of adequate extraction fans, required for deep-frying, at Nauticus. (N.B. Apparently it has resurfaced at Swanfield Industrial Estate, so Jimmy’s singular fried chicken lives another day.)
Not all eating takes place at the weekend – Leithers need sustenance midweek too –though pop ups and hatcheries are less numerous. For a midweek option, the Leith Glutton is tempted to wander up The Walk, but that’s a whole other Leither article.
In Leith proper, Pizza Geeks have taken over foodie-focused East Pizzas, who have sold up and migrated to the new food hall at the ‘Copper Jobby’ The new offering seems less oily and on first inspection it’s good. Retro pineapple and pulled pork used excellent ingredients well, a drizzle of sriracha bringing everything together for a very modern take.
If you are still hungry after that foodie bombardment, you can pop past Crolla’s at Coalhill for a very passable gelato. They’ll do a roaring trade when the weather warms up, and more power to their elbow.