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Gulnar's Passage to India (Edinburgh)

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46 Queen Charlotte Street, Edinburgh. Tel: 0131 554 7520.

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      23.03.2002 19:54
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      Living in Leeds for ten years I was spoilt in terms of good curry and didn't even realise it. It was only when I moved up (even further) north to Edinburgh that I discovered how addicted I had become to them and the hunt was on for a new haunt. Three years on and the results have been somewhat disappointing. Late night curry houses aren't really the 'thing' up here, rather curry is on a parr with other restaurants - though on the whole more in terms of price than quality. All is not lost, however, as hidden in the back streets of Leith is the very reasonable, thoroughly enjoyable and distinctly different Gulnar's. Something of a Leith mainstay, the owner Mohammad is Egyptian by birth and has attempted to recreate the atmosphere of a Bedouin-style tent. As you enter the restaurant it is refreshing to see the walls and roof draped with marine blue hangings - a welcome change from flock wall paper and dodgy artwork. Once you are in the tented confines of the restaurant, service is slick and pleasant. There are always plenty of members of staff to take your order and complimentary pappadoms and a pickle tray are swiftly brought to your table. The lime pickle is particularly good here, so don't forget to try it! Once you are seated and crunching happily away, you will be given time to look at the extensive menu. You will find all the Indian staples here, from bhaji to bhuna and dansak to korma. Do take time to check out some of the Egyptian dishes on the menu, though, as these are distinctly different and all lovingly prepared. If you a hothead when it comes to curries, I thoroughly recommend Gulnar's rooflifter - it certainly does. For those, like myself, with a more mild disposition, there is plenty of choice, I'm a big fan of their spinach dishes, in particular, but I can honestly say I have never had a bad meal there. One word of warning though, avoid the 'pes
      hwari' nan, which is merely ordinary nan bread smeared with jam, stick to the plain version, they're lovely. If you are looking to wash your meal down with something alcoholic, there is a fully stocked bar, though my tipple of choice is water or cobra beer. While, the food is good in Gulnar's, the entertainment alone is worth stopping by for on a Friday and Saturday night. Because at the weekend you will be treated to bellydancing by either his wife or one of her students - you can learn all the moves to work off your curry at lessons in a studio beneath the restaurant twice a week - while you eat. While there isn't a great deal of room to manoeuvre, the ladies manage pretty well and it is a skill worth seeing. They're very easygoing too, on my other half's 40th birthday we took a huge crowd down and one of them decided he fancied having a go at the dancing and the dancer was more than happy to share the limelight with his cavorting. Back to your meal, and deserts are pretty much staple for curry houses, with the usual round up of kulfi and icecreams, though I'll be surprised if you have room left after your main meal.It is worth ordering coffee just to see the waiters in action as they pour it from pointy spouted coffee samovars from outrageous heights, without spilling a drop - though it is a bit of a worry for those of us with nerves! I have eaten in Gulnar's at least once a month since I arrived in Leith and also frequently availed myself of their take-away and home-delivery service. If you order on the premises you can occupy yourself by looking through one of several photograph albums on display, but I frequently let them deliver. They are always prompt, polite and all take away's come with a free portion of onions and some Bombay mix. You will sometimes even find a free bottle of booze nestling next to your nibbles. But, back to the restaurant. I've eaten here in b
      oth afternoons and evenings as part of a couple and in groups of up to 20 and it has always been good. I have always been able to walk in off the street and get a table too - which is particularly heartwarming. A meal for two course meal for two with a bottle or two of beer each will set you back somewhere between £20-30. If you just go for a main dish and stick to the water with a shared rice and nan bread, though, you can easily eat here for under £15 for two. There are other kids on the curry block in Leith including the much-vaunted Raj and the allegeded 'best curryhouse in Scotland' Britannia Spice, but for a consistently enjoyable curry experience hot foot it here.

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