Edinburgh’s hottest new restaurant opens tomorrow (15th of November) and I was lucky enough to have a sneak preview at the beginning of the month with the Scottish Bloggers Collective. BABA is a new restaurant that I’ve taken a lot of interest in because it’s being brought to us by the team behind Ox and Finch in Glasgow. Ox and Finch is a restaurant that has been on my radar for over a year now and I’ve never managed to get a table, so when I got the opportunity to try out this sister restaurant in Edinburgh, I jumped at the chance!
BABA is a mezze, charcoal-grill and cocktail bar, which serves up the flavours of the Levant. From these countries, Turkey is the only destination I’ve visited, so it’s an area that fascinates me and I was excited to find out more about it through food. After being recommended the Sufi Fizz, I ordered the intriguing cocktail at the bar – it included vodka, vanilla, rose, labneh, lime, cardamom and ginger tea soda. The drink was delicious and I would definitely have it again; with its creamy texture, it’s perfect for an after dinner drink.
Whilst we sipped on our cocktails we were able to take in the feel of the restaurant. The interior has been decorated beautifully, to match the Eastern Mediterranean theme, but it’s a mixture of traditional and quirky. The patterns and designs are what I would expect of the Levant, but they have added old, cinema style chairs, which adds to the cool vibe (there are a range of different seating options). The bar is situated upstairs and connects to the Roxburghe hotel. Here, we were served lemon and chilli halkidiki olives and Baharat-spiced nuts, alongside our drinks. I’m really not a big olive fan, but these have to be the best I’ve tasted; the nuts were also a lovely accompaniment for the cocktails.
Robbie Bargh, co-creator of BABA, introduced the restaurant and explained that they wanted to tell a story through the food because food is about having fun and sharing experiences – something I completely agree with. We were acquainted with Mr Baba – the fictional character around who, BABA is based. The idea is that BABA serves food and drink that Mr Baba has found whilst on his travels. After our welcome from Robbie, we were taken downstairs to the main restaurant area, which follows the same theme of the bar.
We were served food from each area of the menu and first up, from the Mezze selection, was the haggis and harissa kibbeh. I’m a big fan of haggis, so I knew I would enjoy this dish, but it was the cauliflower fritters that I was most impressed with. They were accompanied by zhug and crème fraiche and bursting with flavour, which I don’t normally associate cauliflower with.
The Dips have to be on everyone’s order at BABA because there are so many incredible choices. We tried all the dips on the menu and it’s very difficult to pick my favourite, but the beetroot hummus with whipped feta and hazelnut dukkah was one I thoroughly enjoyed. I was also a fan of the smoked salmon taramasalata, the squash and the labneh dips – you really can’t make a wrong choice here, just try not to fill up on the grilled pitta (easier said than done)!
Next up, we were presented with items from the Grill part of the menu, which included monkfish with chickpeas, tomato, saffron, parsley and feta. This would be my go to main meal option at BABA because I love fish and chickpeas, so this is perfect for me and unbelievably tasty. However, we also tried the hake, beetroot, orange and herb salad, which was extremely delicious and good for a lighter option.
If you’re a meat fan, the chuck-eye steak is served in a delicious sauce, but I found the steak too fatty for me. Our last feed from the Grill was a whole cauliflower with tahini, ras-el-hanout and rose. This isn’t a main course that I would normally order, but it tasted great and had a lovely texture. I still wouldn’t order it to myself, but it’s a great sharing side for the table.
By this point I was getting quite full, but there’s always room for a kebab! We tasted both the lamb and chicken schawarma and both are great main options; I’m not normally a big lamb eater, but I would definitely order the lamb schawarma again. The kebabs come with pitta, harissa, zhug, garlic tahini, herbs and spices. One of my favourite things about BABA (there are many) is the sharing aspect because it allows diners to try new foods.
Although I now needed a nap, we were offered dessert and I couldn’t say no, but I decided to keep it light with pomegranate sorbet with mint. It arrived looking delightful and luckily, tasted just as good! It was a lovely touch of sweetness for the end of the meal, without being too filling. If I have more room on my next visit, I want to try the olive oil sponge because it got rave reviews.
BABA certainly lived up to my expectations and I can’t wait to visit again!