Fusion Gourmet, 14-18 Lady Lawson Street, Edinburgh 0131 228 6463

Fusion Gourmet isn’t the first Chinese restaurant I’ve visited where there doesn’t appear to be any heating and where the lighting – spotlights, glaring bulbs – is uncompromisingly pitiless as it shines down on hard plastic surfaces. It offers about as much physical and emotional comfort as the waiting room in a veterinary surgery.

We drape our coats over our shoulders for heat and comfort and try not to be downhearted but we can’t shake off the feeling that we’re sitting in a restless corridor, which in effect we are. The door to the street opens regularly, admitting freezing draughts of air and a steady stream of restaurant delivery couriers. From what we can hear they are not native English speakers, possibly Polish, Lithuanian, Pakistani, Kurdish, a hard-working band of polyglots, all trying to make a living in the gig economy.

They file past us in their motorbike gear generating ‘time is money’ restlessness as they pick up takeaways. They call out a number and the front of house manageress passes bags of food to them in between answering an unbelievably loud and demanding phone with a ringtone that could double up as an alarm for days when you daren’t sleep in.

READ MORE: Little Hoi An, Glasgow. Restaurant review by Ron Mackenna

In Fusion Gourmet I see a dystopian vision of the future; lifeless restaurants, traffic clogged with food delivery bikes, lonesome diners who lack the energy or will to leave their homes; a breakdown of social dining. I hope this restaurant isn’t a parable for where current restaurant trends might eventually take us.

At first we wonder if they have forgotten to put any tea in our teapot. It tastes like tepid water, but we can see green leaves in there, and yet even brewing time doesn’t make them taste like tea. The menu makes few concessions to non-Chinese with language issues and clunky descriptions making a monkey of our understanding. Prawns with ‘Sea Sedge’? What’s that? At £13.80 I’m not likely to take the risk of finding out. ‘Lamb spine hotpot’. ‘Mashed potato with blueberry sauce’. How weird is that? ‘Bovine tail Chinese yam soup’. ‘Stir-fried pig intestine with peppers’. ‘Beans with kale borecole’. ‘Griddle cooked beef tendon’. This menu, which runs to multiple pages, makes Google Translate look like a 100% accurate interpretation service.

We start somewhat tamely with pork and Chinese leaves dumplings, ten of them. With their elastic dough wrappers and their mulched centres I become aware of a tongue tingling feeling that I associate with stock cubes, or perhaps it’s the delayed chemical taste left by the prawn crackers that has just got to me. Our blasé disregard of the pictogram that showed two red chillis next to the description of ‘clay pot lamb’ leaves us struggling with an oily terra cotta red soup where, in amongst hand-pulled noodles and glass vermicelli, stringy meat slices are outnumbered by what tastes like a chopping board’s worth of dried red chilli. Our tongues are inflamed before the anaesthesia effect sets in.

Other dishes make us work hard for our dinner. I suppose I expected a bit, a lot more, beef on the boney contents of what was otherwise an acceptable soy sauce-rich braise scented with star anise. Seeing the description ‘pan-fried Scottish grey sole with salt and chilli’ I wasn’t prepared for a plate of what seemed to be already filleted fish carcass, head and all, deep fried in batter. The frustrating thing here is that the odd flakes of fish still adhering to bone and cartilage under the batter do taste quite good. But for £14.80 this plateful represents rotten value for money.

A glance round the corner reveals that Fusion Gourmet has the equivalent of a private dining area, dark and relatively intimate, with a round dining table around which a group of Chinese men with the air of business people are sat. I guess they share a tacit code that allows them to translate this laminated directory of badly described and sometimes downright odd confections into something approximating to a satisfying meal.

Fusion Gourmet, 14-18 Lady Lawson Street, Edinburgh 0131 228 6463

Food: 5/10

Atmosphere: 3/10

Service: 5/10

Value for money: 4/10