A fresh, new look for Lancers Brasserie celebrating its fine Indian heritage in Stockbridge, Edinburgh
The Bengal Lancers, the Indian Regiment during the British Raj was founded around 1803 when the East India company required an army of native horseman to protect British trade interests in India. The son of a Lieutenant Colonel, James Skinner, born of mixed British/Indian race with Scottish ancestry, was given the task of recruiting soldiers for the Regiment first named “Skinners Horse” or the Yellow Boys due to their uniform.
Lancers Brasserie in Stockbridge, Edinburgh commemorates the pioneering life of Abdhul Samad Choudhury, a hard working cook in the Bengal Lancers – as a Pacifist he would ride backwards into battle. His son then ran a Biryani House in East Bengal. With an adventurous spirit, Abdhul’s grandson Bodrul Hussain left his village on the Barak River and travelled first to Paris and then Edinburgh, where in 1985 he opened this Indian Restaurant.
Thirty three years on, time for a decorative face lift and revamped, modernised menu. The design across two rooms combines royal blue plush fabrics, banquette seating, basket cane bentwood chairs, rose and beech wood, brass and chrome gilt, decorative lamps with woven cane also used in the framed artwork.
Around the plain walls, perhaps there could be the addition of colourful illustrations of the smart horsemen of the Bengal Lancers to reflect the family’s Indian heritage.
Start the evening with an aperitif – there’s a fine list of Cocktails and Spirits to suit all tastes. My partner Ken selected the ’85 Old Fashioned, served here since day one, (Glenfiddich whisky, orange and angostura bitters), garnished with a strawberry rather than the expected orange twist.
While studying the menu, I sipped a Pomegranate Martini, (Edinburgh Gin, Cointreau with lemon and pink Pomegranate juice). Alternatively, Lancers Royale (cherry brandy and prosecco), Mojito and Daiquiri.
The real taste of the British Raj is of course a classic G&T with a varied selection of brands including Jin-Dea from the Goomtree Estate, India and made from First Flush Darjeeling Tea, a floral Himalayan black leaf ‘Champagne of Tea’.
This lemon & grapefruit citrus based gin is infused with aromatic spices, peach, apricots, coriander, ginger, fennel, cardamom, cinnamon and angelica. Jin-Dea is ideal for all highball drinks, G&T’s, Tom Collins and a Classic Martini with a twist of grapefruit.
“I am a gin person and this is the best. I had it in Scotland in a gin and tonic and it was the most delicious and memorable G&T I ever drank.” Mary, Texas
A choice of beers too, from Scottish Brewdog Punk IPA to Kingfisher – The Real Taste of India – on draught for the perfect accompaniment to a spicy curry. Mocktails, non-alcoholic beer and soft drinks for drivers and non-drinkers.
So to the food: A diverse choice of Nastha (Starters) from classic vegetarian Pakora and Samosa for a tasty bite, Sheik Kebab (minced lamb), and King Prawn Bombay Street Tacos. Mallu Fried Chicken is from Kerala – deep fried marinated chicken tossed in curry leaves served with peppers and onions.
Ken selected Okra Fries while I ordered a favourite – Squid. I love to eat these crisp calamari rings with my fingers but a drizzled coating of spicy masala and mayo softened and spoilt the batter. The panko-coated Okra was presented the same way. A little jug of the sauce or garlic aioli served on the side would be better to maintain the texture. While tasty, the portion size of both dishes was extremely generous, each suitable for three or four people.
With our meal we sipped the House Red Wine, a French Merlot, giving a ripe juicy fruit balance for aromatic spicy food. The House White is a French Sauvignon Blanc while the Wine list ranges from Argentina and Spain to Australia and New Zealand, as well as Prosecco & Champagne. A glass of Prosecco might be popular or offer individual bottles.
Carnivores will relish a diverse range of classic and innovative main courses divided between Tandoori, featuring chicken, lamb chops, beef ribs, marinated for 24 hours in a ginger and garlic masala paste for a rich flavour.
Under the title Handi Se are hearty curry dishes, such as Lahori Haleem – slow cooked goat meat cooked in lentils, barley and spices, and the Viceroy’s Jalfrezi, chicken thighs with onions and peppers. A traditional Goan dish is Venison Vindaloo (the game is sourced locally from Bower’s butcher on Raeburn Place), and a choice of Biryani with either spiced meat, fish or vegetables cooked in layers with rice, street-food style.
Vegetarian curries are served either as a main course or as a side accompaniment to your meat and seafood curries, such as Aloo Gobi (potato and cauliflower), Sag Aloo, (spinach and potato) or Dhal – the staple of the Officer’s Mess.
These small portions of vegetarian curries are also ideal for sharing like Indian Tapas. Ken and I selected three – Katti Baigain, Sag Paneer and Tarka Dahl as well as a Peshwari Naan and Pilau Rice.
Two well heated blue flower pattered plates were placed on the table and we were soon surrounded by a selection of small bowls: we thoroughly enjoyed the combination of softly roasted sweet aubergines, spinach and creamy paneer cheese, and classic lentil dahl. The freshly baked, nicely charred Naan bread was again a generous size but quickly devoured along with the perfectly cooked, light fluffy grains of rice.
Four small vegetarian dishes to share would probably suit two hungry diners, depending on the number of starters, sides and desserts ordered.
A feast it certainly was and we finished the wine at leisure without indulging in a sweet treat such as a Mango sorbet and Luca’s Ice-cream, or Gulab Jamun, Indian doughnuts with rose syrup. Or finish with a whisky, brandy or liqueur with coffee.
Open seven days from 5pm – 11pm, the service is casual and relaxed by a front of house team of five waiters under the Restaurant Manager Derek Young with Mukta Hussain overseeing his chefs in the kitchen.
The re-imagined new style from decor to cuisine Lancers brings a fresh wind of change to this well established family business to complement the appetising range of international restaurants – Japanese, South American, Chinese, Italian, Scottish et al. nearby.
Abdhul Samad Choudhury of Skinner’s Horse would surely be proud of his legacy as an Indian chef which has been carried on by Bodrul and Mukta in the Foodie urban village of Stockbridge beside the Water of Leith.
What do other diners say?
“ I went for the venison vindaloo – delicious and the Gulab Jamun dessert was excellent! Will be back.”
“The reason we decided to dine here was it was Sunday, a perfect day for a pint and a curry and when there is a great Indian restaurant on your doorstep, why not support local”.
“Really nice atmosphere and the staff were friendly and efficient. Very impressed and will be back.”
5 Hamilton Place. Stockbridge, Edinburgh, EH3 5BA
Tel: 0131 315 4335
An Indian Feast at Lancers!