83 Hanover Street, 83 Hanover Street, Edinburgh 0131 225 4862

Lunch-Dinner £20-30

Food rating 10/10

Precious little is truly original in the restaurant world in Scotland, either in terms of food or decor. Mind you, that’s true of the rest of the UK outside London too. Latin American food is particularly susceptible to travesties. Some horrible British things are done to burritos.

Lumped together as a genre, South American cuisines are little understood and barely experienced, stultified somewhere between Argentinian steakhouse and TexMex as interpreted by chains. Recently Peruvian cooking has climbed up the agenda of the food loving cognoscenti, but Chilean, what on earth is that?

And here’s 83 Hanover Street, whose name conjures up nothing the brain can retain apart from a street location, serving ‘a unique culinary blend of Scottish produce with Chilean flavours’, which sounded like a precarious concept to me, even when it’s genuine Chileans who are running it.

As we walk into 83 Hanover Street though, I’m excited by the vitality of the place. Correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t these premises used to be the old Laigh Bakehouse, whose undeniable virtues were on the dark, cosy side, not the bright and energetic side? The premises have lost their Church of Scotland refectory vibe and been transformed into a stylish contemporary bar. Narcissus-yellow banquettes, walls in earthy tones, creamy terrazzo table tops, food served on a series of beautiful ceramics with sunny designs that instantly make all that Nordic-mood stoneware look dull.

And everything tastes fresh here, starting with my Chilean ‘orange’ Muscat wine, which has the cloudiness and vitality of Kombucha. Our whitebait are clean and different, not raw, but only fleetingly dusted in salt and chopped tarragon, then fried. With them comes a racy aioli, quite sharp so it cuts the oiliness of the fish. Sopaipillas (pumpkin fritters) with pebre (Chilean salsa) looks fine but tastes fantastic because the vinegary, tomato and coriander pebre makes such a vivid contrast to the comforting mealiness and concentrated pumpkin flavour of the fritter, which is slightly hollow in the middle, unlike any other fritter I’ve previously encountered.

And now the ceviche of stone bass is exciting our taste buds, the fish tenderised by the vivacious lime in its marinade, unapologetically front-loaded with sliced, unseeded chilli, softened by sweet cubes of squash; the master stroke here is the flakes of crisped up fish skin that introduce further texture and flavour.

Next, there’s beef short rib, the meat falling from the bone. It abounds in distinctly Scottish, very homely boiling beef virtues. The clear juices pair up so well with their salty purée of lilac potatoes, refreshingly vinegary, chunky tomato, coriander and onion salad punctuates the plainness with fistfuls of character. If I was only allowed one desert island dish here, it would have to be the char-grilled octopus with white bean escabeche: shrimp-pink tentacle with blackened edges that’s as pretty as a bangle and as tender a cephalopod as I’ve never eaten, top class beans that retain their shape in lip-smacking fresh tomato juices.

I can take or leave doughnuts as a general rule, but these ‘Tres Leches donuts’ open up a whole new chapter on doughnut-dom for me. The three milks seem to be condensed, cream, and whole milk and they seem to be made with egg, not yeast. Baked, not fried, they’re crunchy and dry with an addictive exterior that tastes like bashed up flaky pastry, and – wait for it – bathing in what tastes like a very light, liquid evaporated milk custard. They confirm my view that I can never be vegan. These lactic pleasures are just too cosseting to miss.

As for the Alfajores, wafery and irregular butter biscuits, sandwiched with dulce de leche (milk toffee), with their Jackson Pollock-like drips of dark chocolate, they’re novel, and I’m bonding with them immediately.

So 83 Hanover Street, despite its gastronomically mute name, is bursting with energy. Portions are big, supremely satisfying, and speak of diligent preparation and a commitment to authenticity. The freshness of the food here is striking, both conceptually and in its execution. I have never tasted anything remotely like it.