Megan Amato reviews Edinburgh’s new eatery Chaakoo.

During the ten years or so I’ve been visiting and living in Edinburgh, I have witnessed the local cuisine blossom from its rather traditionally Scottish fare and very anglicised takeaways and bloom into a city with a rich and diverse food scene. No longer do you need to travel to Glasgow or even London to enjoy relatively authentic food from around the world as we have plenty right on our doorstep.


Edinburgh’s newest eating place Chaakoo – an originally Glasgow-based restaurant inspired by the ‘Bombay Cafés’ opened by Iranian immigrants in Bombay during the 19th century – is a fusion of Irani and Mumbai flavours in a vibrant city centre café. 

The green-and-gold-fronted restaurant stands out in its Lothian Road location – an area already brimming with restaurants, pubs, cinemas and hipster bars. As I waited out front for my friend, I began to count the seconds as the enticing scent of garlic, coriander and turmeric wafted my way every time the door opened.

The modern, warm-coloured interiors gave the restaurant a cosy pub-like feel while the marble tabletops and mix of pop art and posters of Indian films on the wall added a modern twist.

Despite going in with the intention not to drink, the inspired and creative cocktail selection persuaded me otherwise. I couldn’t resist testing out my improved lactose tolerance with the 5 Walla on the Rocks – a creamy chai liqueur over ice. It was extremely decadent, reminding me of a less rich eggnog and I wish there had been more of it, but I suspect it’s one of those drinks that is stealthy and very alcoholic.

My friend ordered a more seasonal drink called High Tea in Chennai, which consisted of strawberry gin, iced tea, lemon syrup, aquafaba and grenadine. It tasted fresh and summery, the lemon balancing out the sweetness of the strawberry and grenadine.

To eat, there was a mixture of ‘Humble Curries’ – the classics – Chef’s Café Special Curries, Irani Kebabs, Bombay Small plates and Indian Salads. The waitress suggested ordering at least 2-3 dishes, including a naan (or two in our case – always garlic). 

We started with the Machali; fish pakora seasoned with coriander and green chilli. It had the perfect crunch that matched well with the soft white fish in the centre and tangy dipping sauce. We could have happily had another plate or two of these.

When our plates were first brought out, we hesitated and asked our waitress whether it would be enough for two people. After determining that we were both very hungry, she suggested the Garlic Chilli Chicken for my spice loving palate. It was a nice curry, tangy and slightly hot, but it should not be too overwhelming for those who are sensitive to heat.

Despite having a fish starter, my friend and are I were both keen on the Kerala Monkfish curry mixed with coconut, ginger, garlic and mustard seeds. Typically, my go-to Indian curries involve lamb or spinach, but fish offered a lighter, more intriguing alternative. This was by far our favourite dish of evening; it was smooth and bursting with flavour despite the delicacy of the fish.

Having denied myself a lamb curry, our second dish was the Dum Biryani, which was spiced slow-cooked lamb in rice. We used this as our base rice along with our naan and it was well-seasoned. 

Food is a great social connector that brings people together in the act of eating and sharing and exploring culture, and cuisines where you share plates take this connection a step further. Chaakoo’s tapas-style dishes makes it an ideal place for friends and family to meet and catch up over delicious food without the added food envy that leaves you wondering if your pal picked the better curry. With vegetarian, gluten-free and vegan options, there is something for nearly everyone to enjoy. I regret not trying more of their special curries and kebabs, but that means there is more food to savour during my next visit.

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