On Saturday 30th May, we tried the newly opened Spitaki on East Claremont Street.
We were pretty excited about this – a new Greek restaurant opening on the East side of Edinburgh, about a 2 minute walk from our front door. Greek food whenever we want it, basically. I think I can quite confidently state that this is ‘the dream’. One of my all time favourite cuisines, the opening is perfect timing for a lovely warm summer (or at least we can sit inside pretending how lovely and warm it is outside while the horizontal rain batters the windows). The restaurant opened its doors on Friday, and we swiftly booked a table for the Saturday night to see what was on offer.
|Photograph courtesy of STV|
On arrival we were shown to our table, in a rather awkward corner of the Taverna. The décor is exactly what you would imagine a Greek restaurant to be, light and airy with furniture and walls painted blue and white. It’s pleasant, however ever so slightly outdated, despite being renovated weeks earlier. Spitaki, as a floor space, is an undeniably awkward one – this cannot be helped, though, as it is just the unusual shape of the building (the previous occupants, ‘Elbow’, named their café quite literally). You feel that the building is more suited to a pub, where access to tables would not be hugely necessary, but nevertheless, there we were, the four of us, sitting at a table that could potentially seat eight.
Décor and building aside, the menu certainly sparked our appetites. Some great sounding dips, including hummus and tzatziki, were accompanied by traditional Greek favourites - including spanakopita, green peppers with feta and char grilled marinated chicken. An exciting yet traditional Greek menu, something that Edinburgh certainly lacks. All would have been well if it wasn’t for the incompetence of the waiting staff, however. Ordering our drinks became a bit of an ordeal – most likely caused by the fact that the waitress was not writing down our order. We had to ask for a beer twice, olives twice and glasses for our water three times. All would have been forgiven if she was apologetic, but her reaction to our gentle reminders was closer to confusion and frustration.
Nevertheless, our food order was written down and taken correctly. We thought we’d split it up a bit – so we ordered three dips – hummus, tzatziki and baba ganoush (this was called something else on the menu which I cannot recall – the aubergine dip, to put it simply) with a couple of orders of pita bread. These were all perfectly made and absolutely delicious – particularly the baba ganoush which was bursting with smoky aubergine flavour. The pita bread, also, was top quality, however completely over priced (£1.50 for one small pita bread, quartered). A great start, food wise, all washed down with a reasonable bottle of Malbec (although, the wine selection is miniscule). This was followed swiftly by a great selection of mezzes including green peppers with feta, spanakopita, cheese ‘saganaki’ (fried cheese), prawn saganaki and char grilled chicken. Some dishes were superb – the chilli peppers with feta dish was hugely flavoursome – to a point where the amazing, smoky flavour of the chilli emerged rather than the heat. The prawns were good too – well cooked and flavoured nicely with a pleasant tomato sauce; they paired well with the succulent, skewered chicken. The spanakopita, however, was chewy and clearly not fresh – while the fried cheese was rubbery, nevertheless tasty. I would have happily passed this information on to the waiting staff, but they did not ask once whether the food was okay and they could not have looked more uninterested anyway.
The food, overall – was good, however oddly priced. The cheese saganaki at £3.50 comes across as a bargain, however the prawns, of which there were four, came at a hefty £8 (similarly, the two relatively small chicken skewers cost £7.50). So – the veggie side of the meal was of pretty good value, but, if you prefer to order primarily meat dishes, your meal will be pricy and relatively small, as well as underwhelming. We decided to skip dessert – they had no menu and their offerings were quite poor - cheesecake, brownie or a Greek sponge cake. The atmosphere by about 9pm had died a death so we were quite happy to leave soon after.
Overall, my excitement of trying Spitaki was quite quickly quashed soon after we arrived. The waiting staff are very amateurish, possibly (and hopefully) drafted in whilst they look for relatively well-trained servers. The décor, despite newly put together, is nothing special and the drinks list is very limited. You could, momentarily, forget about all of this as you dig into their delicious tzatziki with their fresh, homemade pita bread – however not all of the food is quite good enough for you to completely forgive the shortcomings. I’m hoping they’ll improve with time and swiftly fill in the cracks that can be so common with a newly opened restaurant, however I’m certainly not rushing back. Spitaki, right now, is a mediocre restaurant, and I would wait a while before trying if I were you.