There are lots of notable openings in Edinburgh at the moment but BABA – the latest venture from the team behind Glasgow’s Ox and Finch – is arguably the most eagerly awaited.
The bar and restaurant are the public centrepiece of the recently launched Principal Edinburgh Charlotte Square hotel.
Formerly the Roxburghe Hotel, the property on the corner of Charlotte Square and George Street has had a £25 million investment and full rebrand of the hotel.
The first thing to say is that BABA looks nothing like a hotel restaurant or bar.
As far as this blogger is concerned, this is a very good thing.
You could throw a pitta from one of the windows at BABA and it would land in Charlotte Square. The square is home to many a financial institution and is, perhaps, the epitome of old school, buttoned-up Edinburgh.
BABA: more Beirut than Bruntsfield
By way of contrast, BABA does look as though you might find it at the back of a Beirut souk.
Hotel bars and restaurants usually look shiny and bland. BABA looks deliberately distressed. It is dimly lit and the paint work has been artfully worn.
Were it not for the gleaming modern kitchen, you could easily be stepping back to the 20th century. If not further. The only thing missing is smoke from the hookahs.
The new restaurant is a partnership. Jonathan MacDonald and Daniel Spurr of Ox and Finch are working with Katherine Arnold and Robbie Bargh of the Gorgeous Group, an influential restaurant consultancy and branding group.
Both Daniel and Katherine have lived in the Levant, that part of the Middle East that stretches, roughly, from Cyprus to Jordan.
That experience shines through from the spiced cocktails to the carpets on the walls and the herbs in the mezze.
Rip and dip
You can view the menu here. We sampled a large proportion of it at the preview evening.
It was all very good. Especially the mezze dips which, like the rest of the menu, are designed for sharing.
We like charcoal-grilled fish and meat and kebabs as much as the next bloke.
However, we would happily spend an afternoon diving into a selection of these fantastic, inventive, veggie dips with a large stack of pitta.
We wish BABA the best of luck.
And strongly suspect that it won’t need any to flourish.