Food&Drink News&Reviews

Zensational A stylish new Japanese restaurant in Edinburgh is turning heads, including that of Donald Reid

D o not dismiss lightly the pleasure to be had in sitting in a beautifully

designed restaurant.


It is a fairly rare treat these days. Austere times have seen interior decor schemes abandoned in all but high-end new restaurants, with a lick of paint and change of wall hangings deemed sufficient for many new openings. Far eastern restaurants, a genre enjoying another surge onto the local scene in the last year, have gone for either fast and frenetic to create a distraction, or stark simplicity as a poor man’s version of minimalism. In the right context, both can work, but neither has the grace or seductive elegance of something done properly.

Kanpai, which has replaced Stac Polly on Grindlay Street near the Royal Lyceum Theatre, does things properly. The owners, who first brought a bit of metropolitan Japan to Edinburgh with Sushiya, engaged Leith design agency Four-by-Two to create a place evoking the best of contemporary Tokyo design. Mellow colours and clever lighting allow shadows and shafts of light to soften the atmosphere. A long sushi bar holds your attention with its shapely stools, pendant lights and overhead plywood fins, with a chef busy in diligent preparation against a spare backdrop of sake bottles and steel knives. The menu is shorter than you might imagine, and

28 THE LIST 20 Oct–17 Nov 2011

The serene elegance of the place and its food Sustainability of some of the fish served?

there are few crutches for those less familiar with Japanese eating. Don’t expect sampler plates or easy Western-style alternatives. Based around superbly fresh fish from Eddie’s Seafood market, and supplemented by a small vegetarian selection, the tempura, sashimi and sushi options turn up in precisely styled arrangements on a variety of plates, baskets and even custom-built wooden stands. Though short, the accompanying selection of ‘Classics’ and fried dishes has plenty to offer, from a deeply savoury miso soup or grilled half aubergine coated in sweet miso sauce to a more daring line of five deep fried octopus balls.

If you are straying out of your culinary comfort zone this is the setting in which to do it: a place that carries what’s still an exotic cuisine with class, conviction and no small measure of style.


8–10 Grindlay Street, Edinburgh, EH3 9AS 0131 228 1602,

Tue–Sun noon–2.30pm; 5–10.30pm. Closed Mon. Ave. price meal (two-course equivalent): £20




‘takeover makeover’ series of pop-up

restaurants is Johnny McKnight’s tribute to Madonna’s True Blue album, released 25 year ago. The 80s-themed menu is currently running at the Arches Café Bar and Restaurant in Glasgow, with special performance nights on 27 October and 6 November.

THE NEW MICHELIN GUIDE means Scotland’s tally of stars creep up by one to 17.

New holders of one star are Edinburgh’s Castle Terrace, Martin Wishart at Loch Lomond and Glenapp Castle Hotel in Ayrshire. Previous star holders missing out this time were The Plumed Horse in Leith and Linlithgow’s Champany Inn.

EDINBURGH’S RESTAURANT SCENE marks the end of an era on or around 22 October

when Tim and Fran James close the doors on their city-centre seafood restaurant Creelers. The couple are planning to build a new smokehouse at Skipness on Kintyre, and they’ll continue to have a presence in the capital with their weekly farmers’ market stall.

BAR CRAWLER CHAMBRE 69 69 Nelson Mandela Place, Glasgow

Bier Halle owner Colin Barr has given his new venture a softly-softly start with an intermittent but steady stream of gigs, DJs, vintage fairs and private parties at this hipster- cool underground club. Regular daytime bar hours are imminent along with two for one burgers. ‘Well bred, well fed and well hung’ is the claim presumably it’s the beef they’re referring to.