Spark, Amani and Vanishing Willows among recent food & drink openings

Food News, June 2010

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Spark, Vanishing Willows and Other Openings

Prices shown are for an average two-course meal for one.

EDINBURGH

Spark
25 Dundas Street, New Town, 0131 652 3715, www.sparkcoffee.co.uk, £6 (lunch)
This is one of a small collection of places around the city that might persuade you of the vibrancy of Edinburgh’s independent café scene. Opened earlier in the year in a former florists, Spark is of the less is more school: less focus on the fittings as an indication of the attention paid to decent coffee (beans from Union), homemade soup and snacks (including tasty spinach swirls) and crumb-picking cakes. Despite the hill outside we’re not in San Francisco yet, but Spark illuminates the way there.

Amani
28 Bernard Street, Leith, 0131 555 4626, www.amanirestaurant.com, £8 (lunch) / £18 (dinner)
With carved black latticework, glowing panels of pink and purple, slick lighting and waiters in flowing black kurta pajama suits, new Indian about Leith Amani is out to make its stylish mark. A cocktail list, kids’ menu (albeit with fish fingers and macaroni) and chef’s special fusion menu incorporating Moroccan and Mediterranean influences alongside the underlying Punjabi base all confirm the ambition of Silvia Sanjurjo’s new venture, though familiar tandoori, jalfrezi, korma and biryani dishes are all there too.

Los Cardos
281 Leith Walk, Leith, 0131 555 6619, www.loscardos.co.uk, £6.50 (lunch/dinner)
Another example of fast food and takeaways trying to re-engage with the world of real food, this small takeaway (with basic seating for about a dozen) promises ‘Fresh Mex’. Soft tortillas are made on the premises each day, along with salsas, guacamole and tortilla chips, all on offer alongside a choice of fillings which includes ‘Red Tractor’ (ie. higher welfare) chicken, slow-roasted pork and even Macsween’s haggis. Given that even well-made Mexican food tends to err on the side of blandness, you can rev things up on the spice front with your choice of chilli-kicking toppings.

GLASGOW

Auntie M’s Cake Lounge
De Courcey’s Arcade, Cresswell Lane, West End, 0141 334 4053
Tucked upstairs in De Courcey’s Arcade, Auntie M’s Cake Lounge offers a very West End antidote to Starbucks et al. It has a homely, retro, 1950s with flower print table cloths and dainty cups and saucers, but the excitement lies in owner Michelle Aaron’s innovative cakes - maybe white chocolate pistachio or sweet potato and pecan - alongside regular favourites such as brownies and scones. Also worth trying are whoopie pies, a kind of Elvis-style cake sandwich, while loose leaf teas and filter coffee are both available.

Vanishing Willows
Taco Mazama Mexican Kitchen
6 Renfield Street, City Centre, 0141 248 8940, www.tacomazama.co.uk, £8 (lunch/dinner)
This is authentic US-style Mexican food – clean, bright and fresh (and calling courgettes zucchinis) as you might find in an upmarket US mall. On offer are burritos, chillis, nachos, tacos and quesadillas; the side salsa comes in four different heat strengths and the jalapenos would be hot and crunchy enough to satisfy a real cowboy. The meat and veg fillings are a notch above what you might expect at a takeaway, and the massive burritos – rice, beans, sour cream, salad, cheese and meat or vegetables all wrapped in soft, floury, convenient and easy-to-carry tortilla – are a generous meal in themselves.

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