New fine dining Greek restaurant Kuzina in Edinburgh was a revelation for veteran food reviewer Richard Bath.

I’ve visited Greece a lot, stuffing my face on a good number of its most famous islands and in many corners of the Peloponnese peninsula. I’ve eaten my fair share of Greek food back in Blighty too, including at nearby Spitaki and another half dozen Edinburgh restaurants. And, thanks to a daughter whose greatest gastronomic hits invariably seem to involve feta cheese and olives, I’ve chowed down on my share of moussaka and souvlaki on the home front too.

But Kuzina still came as something of a revelation. This new restaurant in the centre of Edinburgh’s New Town produced one of the most unexpected, authentic and enjoyable meals I’ve had in ages. Forget the clichéd Greek staples, this was superb fine dining to cheer even the most jaded gastronome.

Elaborately bearded head chef Konstantinos Sakellariou has spent the last eight years working in Michelin-starred restaurants in London and Suffolk, but England’s loss turns out to be Edinburgh’s gain. Konstantinos, who hails from Loutraki, next to the Corinth Canal, makes a point of coming out and engaging with customers, patiently explaining each prospective dish and making recommendations based on your personal preferences.

After spending some time chatting to him and to owner Konstantinos Karvelis, who recently moved his family from Athens when his wife got a job as a consultant at Carlisle hospital, we ordered the three starters they had suggested. Before the first dishes arrived, we had some really interesting bread made from trahanas, which is cracked wheat that has been turned into a paste with the consistency of couscous and then combined with fermented milk.

All three starters we had ordered turned out to be meat-free, which pleased my vegetarian daughter Ailsa, who was my dining partner. We started with the feta bougiourdi, which turned out to be a thin slab of feta topped with edible silver which was served with fresh chillies, dill, confit cherry tomatoes and oregano. It had none of the harsh, overpoweringly tangy tones you sometimes get with feta; instead it was almost creamy and quite like anything else I’ve tasted before.

Our other two starters consisted of a potato salad made with confit baby potatoes lathered with cream made from the metsovone cheese (a speciality of north west Greece), crispy trahanas, onion powder and topped with lovage and thin-cut radish slices. Our final starter consisted of marinated Cretan artichokes with herb pesto and grapes, and topped with grated Cretan graviera cheese (the nearest thing Greece has to gruyere). It’s served alongside a delicious dip called skordalia, which is made of garlic, potatoes, almonds and olive oil.

After a trio of excellent starters, we were fully primed for our main courses, and once again took the chef’s advice. I was always going to go for the Guouvetsi, which is traditionally eaten for Sunday lunch by many Greeks and is the restaurant’s signature dish. It’s a super-rich six-inch disc of braised lamb shoulder and leg, served with a tomato and wild fennel orzo pasta, sun dried tomato pesto and lamb jus, and bursting with meaty flavours. This was right up my street.

My vegetarian dining partner opted for the sweet yellow bell pepper with cherry tomatoes, orzo, feta crumble and black olive soil. It must have been excellent because: 1) I wasn’t allowed even a forkful; 2) It was wolfed down in a reverential silence, which is an unprecedented event; 3) She said it was one of the best things she’s eaten in months.

With the exception of baklava, puddings haven’t really featured prominently during my trips to Greece, so we were curious. I opted for the ekmek kataifi, which is usually a variation on a bread pudding, although Konstantinos’ version consisted of a delicately piped and creamy pistachio ganache topped with caramelised pistachios and dots of berry compote. Ailsa plumped for the ravani, which turned out to be a perfectly enjoyable if disappointingly bland coconut ganache, which came with a raspberry compote, white chocolate and really decent raspberry sorbet.

As for the wines, everything on offer, from the fizz and the ouzo through to the nicely-judged wine selection, is from Greece. For those of us who shudder at the memory of retsina, fear not – each of the wines we selected worked well, with the highlight being the gorgeously unctuous and complex Artemis Karamolegos pudding wine from Santorini.

If we loved our meal, the sting in the tail – which thanks to the cost of living crisis seems to be a theme with virtually every restaurant I visit this year – is the bill. The starters vary from £12 for the potato salad to £16 for the artichokes, the main courses vary from £19 to £34, and the puddings are £12-14. Throw in wines that start at £32 for a bottle and rise steeply thereafter, and you’ve got a three-course meal which costs around £50 per person before you’ve added wine.

If that’s the downside, the upside is that this was a memorable culinary occasion. You get what you pay for, and Kuzina is very good indeed.

Kuzina, 18 Howe Street, Edinburgh EH3 6TG
0131 226 1573; www.kuzina.co.uk

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