The festival may be over but there are always new acts on Edinburgh’s dining scene. One of the latest is Saboteur.
A Vietnamese diner, it opened just over a week ago on Teviot Place by McEwan Hall.
It is just a few doors along from sister restaurant Ting Thai Caravan.
In fact, it looks very similar to Ting Thai. And by that, I mean that it has been designed to look anonymous.
There is very little exterior signage to show that it actually is a restaurant and the windows are screened in such a way as to make it a little difficult to see inside.
A couple of murals aside, the frontage and most of the interior walls are painted black giving the dining space an almost dusk-like ambience.
I guess that there is a large clue in the name but Saboteur is very low key and, in keeping with this, the decor is utilitarian, almost anti-bling. The tables are bare; drinks are served in tumblers and you may end up on a long table with other diners that you don’t know.
The only thing not hush hush about Saboteur is the music policy. When we dropped by at the weekend, the soundtrack was loud hip hop. Hearing the Beastie Boys’s Sabotage while drinking a Yeastie Boys beer in a restaurant called Saboteur felt mildly surreal.
I suspect that one aim of the the music is to put off any passing Morningside matron who accidentally sets foot in the door and needs a further clue that this restaurant is not aimed at her demographic.
Saboteur does it secret squirrel style
Music policy aside, you could say that Saboteur is quite deliberately mysterious.
And, a bit like Bramble – the unmarked and uber cool cocktail basement cocktail bar on Queen Street – you almost have to know that Saboteur is there.
You are unlikely to stumble in by accident.
It’s not just in real life that Saboteur stays on the QT. They also keep a low profile on social media.
Admittedly, this may say more about the search skills of your blogger than anything else but, apart from a post showing their menus on Ting Thai’s Facebook page, we can find no trace of Saboteur online.
Of course, they don’t take bookings. You have to pitch up and hope that there are seats or queue to get one.
If this all sounds unbearably hip and far too cool for school then the staff provide an antidote in the form of a warm welcome. Not to mention a helping hand in decoding the more exotic aspects of the menu.
Love it or hate it
Depending on your tolerance for ultra-casual restaurants, you will either love it or hate it.
Either way, it is a formula that has worked well a few doors away.
At Ting Thai, customers are often queueing out the door.
And a lot of that is down to the punchy authenticity of the food.
At many Thai restaurants in Edinburgh – not all of them – the food is the sort of toned down Thai served in Bangkok’s international restaurants.
By contrast, Ting Thai’s food is closer to the street food dished up in the night markets.
Of course, the very reasonable, student-friendly pricing doesn’t hurt either.
Saboteur is cast from the same mould.
They run a daytime menu and a night time menu. As far as I can make out, the only difference is that the evening menu is slightly more expensive.
And even then, the most pricey item on the menu is wok-fried beef at £8.90.
If you want bowls of herby pho noodles, steamed bao bun and fresh summer rolls, Saboteur has them all.
The 5pm Dining blog wishes them every success.