I provide excellent support during a weather-related wardrobe crisis.
My husband was having an almost literal meltdown, after wearing dark jeans and a ganzie to this Asian-inspired cafe and restaurant.
When we left the flat, it was overcast. However, by the time we got to Marchmont, you could have fried an egg on his back, melted butter in his armpit and browned toast on his forehead. He was like a human AGA.
We’d walked too far to head back, so he could change into his favourite hotpants and pastis.
I had no idea how roasting it’d be in this small and unassuming place. He waited outside, and I went in to gauge the temperature.
I licked my finger and held it up. No breeze. Could he survive lunch? Yes, I think so. “I’m not having anything hot though”.
Fair enough. I took care of that and ordered the scallion noodles (£7), even though everyone else in the dining room seemed to have gone for the wide hand ripped versions that are listed at the top of their blackboard.
No regrets. I was very happy with my choice. There was a bowlful of skinny noods, scattered with chopped spring onions and featuring a single raw yolk on the top. I used a chopstick to lance this orange orb, and stirred the goo into the mixture, so it added a velvety richness to the black and sediment-y blend of truffle oil, garlic and shallot sauce, and chilli oil. There was some sort of addictive alchemy going on with this perfectly pitched mixture. I have thought about it every day since my visit, and noodles are usually quite low down on my cravings list.
In fact, I’ve been back since, to try the kelp-strand-like hand ripped noodles with salty braised pork (or you can have a version with spicy roast vegetables). They’re excellent too, but the scallion number is still my ultimate.
While I got acquainted with my new favourite dish, he was cooling off with the smoked trout poke (£8.75). This Hawaiian influenced option consisted of molar-sized and fleshy chunks of smoked fish in a piquant mayonnaise-ish dressing, a pad of Szechuan pepper dusted sushi rice, various salad leaves, carrot and red cabbage shreds, chilli cucumber, and coriander. Lovely, with loads of interest. It was a healthy option that never seemed boring.
They also offer a Pomelo sandwich, with teriyaki chicken, or a vegan Buddha bowl. However, we tried a side dish of spicy numbing cucumber (£3.95), which was strangely addictive, thanks in part to the tongue anaesthetising qualities of the Szechuan pepper that was sprinkled over these soy doused clods of ‘cumber. Apparently, it’s the hydroxy-alpha-sanshool molecule that causes this numbing sensation. Or hydrothky-altha-thanthool if you’ve eaten too much of it.
Although Mr Hot probably would have preferred to pour it over his head, drinking the dragon fruit and orange cooler (£4) lowered his temperature by a few degrees, thanks to a dozen jangling ice-cubes and a slurpable fruity mixture. My watermelon iced tea (£4) was also equally welcome, since dogs die in hot cars and I don’t want to be a cremated chihuahua.
We took away a couple of “ice-creams”, which they’d undersold, since they were really much more than that.
There was an ube cheesecake (£4) one, which featured a slab of this biscuit-based cake topped by ube ice-cream and crumbled bits of meringue. If you’re not au fait, ube is a purple yam from the Philippines, and has a nutty and starchy smooth texture. We also tried the cherry and pine (£4) version. I wasn’t really getting the pine note, though there were loads of pulped cherries in the pot, as well as a vanilla-ish ice-cream and more meringue. I was satisfied, and on a total sugar high.
Although this cafe may look a bit basic from the outside, they offer sensorial cooking, with heat, numbing, cooling, and big brave flavours.
Visiting is a bit of a thrill, especially at lunchtime, when you’d usually be having a sandwich or something equally boring.
They also do dinners, which look quite a bit fancier, but I think lunch, at under a tenner, is pretty hard to beat.
Next time we visit, I’ll make sure he’s wearing his hot pants.
21c Strathearn Road
How much? Lunch for two, excluding drinks, £27.70