Taxidi Bistro

6 Brougham St, Edinburgh

0131 228 1030

Lunch/Dinner: £9-22

Food rating: 7/10

IF you cook or eat out a lot, your global food intelligence slowly but surely sharpens. You might, for instance, start using pomegranate molasses instead of HP sauce, or ditch generic chorizo for Calabrian 'Nduja. But I feel sorry for the Greeks. Rick Stein did drop sail on Corfu in his Mediterranean Escapes, but like many an ancient relic, our understanding of Hellenic food seems atrophied in pre-21st century AD. Menus are as predictable as the repetitive twang and thud of bouzouki music: hummus, taramasalata, tzatziki, olives, pitta, kebabs, feta till it’s coming out your ears. In the mind of the supermarket product developer, and much of the general public, Greece is permanently on summer holidays, a country that has no winter. All I can say to that is that when I was last in Athens one mid-December, it was colder than Blighty by a good margin, and not a soul tried to sell us a salad.

So, the time is ripe for some enterprising restaurateur to up the game for Greek restaurants, and I was hoping that the new Taxidi Bistro in Edinburgh might fit the bill. I say hoping because Taxidi appears to be yet another of those annoying concerns that has a Facebook page in preference to a website, so if you can view the menu online, I missed it. Taxidi took over from My Big Fat Greek Kitchen, and went down the smaller plates route. So brunch is an option, and it’s less of a three-course meal place. Now small and busy, it has a family-run feel.

I’m cautious about proprietors taking control of the order. Never be suckered into a "tasting menu" unless you’re convinced it’s what you want. But unusually I allow the proprietor, who’s definitely Greek, and engagingly enthusiastic, to remodel my initial choice. He thinks my choices aren’t quite balanced; so I devolve ordering to him.

Fasolada, Greece’s favourite soup, is today’s special. It turns out to be a basic food processor job: thick, and not especially interesting. I had expected tangible beans, bits of veg, but this is a mush with a heap of chopped red onion in the middle that easily overpowers is plain homeliness. Santorini fava bean spread is marginally more fun, thanks to its cap of caramelised onions and capers, although it too could do with a more abundant lick of olive oil. Pitta bread (from Greece, not made on the premises) is attractively oily, darkly criss-crossed from the grill, and comes in an explosion of aromatic oregano. I’m a bit worried that the grill has too obtrusive a taste though, a feeling that intensifies when we taste the Talagani cheese from Messenia in the Peloponnese, a less ubiquitous, handmade alternative to the more available Cypriot Halloumi. First bite reveals its distinctive sheep’s milk nuttiness but then the charcoal blackness of the grill elbows its way in. I can’t say that I’m bowled over by its accompaniments, a sweet, and not especially orangey marmalade, and a heap of rocket (yawn).

Fresh and daringly fragile courgette fritters speckled with dill, mint and feta would definitely hit the spot were it not for their lingering cooking oil whiff, which flags up that an oil change is overdue. The same issue blights the beef and pork keftedes, well-seasoned, fresh meatballs let down by their frying medium. Generous dollops of authentic Greek yoghurt dusted with paprika distract from this shortcoming, but it hangs around like a sulky bully. Warm grilled aubergine pulp mashed with feta, parsley, and olive oil is much cleaner in the mouth.

A baklava-free zone, we sample loukoumades, balls of deep-fried airy batter drizzled with honey and crumbled walnut, but ultimately leave them because yet again there’s no getting past that old oil whiff. We turn our attention to kataifi – the filo pastry that resembles shredded wheat – soaked in syrup, and then thickly topped with a starch-dense custard. It’s flavoured with mastic or mastic liqueur, apparently, but I can’t pick up the resinous, tree-sappy flavour that’s associated with this gum. Even with swirls of cream on top, it’s just a sweet, heavy clodhopper.

Where’s the new-wave Greek restaurant that will refresh our expectations? Tell me if you find it.