We generally avoid reviewing chain restaurants but with venues only in Edinburgh, Glasgow and (recently opened) Leeds, Soba seemed suitably niche enough to make an exception. Describing its offerings as ‘Pan Asian Street-Food,’ this self-styled bar/kitchen occupies a slot on Hanover Street and offers a funky, lively place to dine, with tables arranged on several levels. The interior decorator seems to have a predilection for different kinds of light fittings and manga style art, but the overall effect is much more pleasing than I’m making it sound.
For starters we chose Sweetcorn and Coconut Fritters, which were every bit as light and delicately spiced as the name would lead you to expect: and Char Siu Steamed Pork Buns with Ginger Plums. These were deliciously soft and sticky and when you got over the initial surprise of them being so gloopy, were really rather enjoyable. The ginger plums lent the dish a contrasting piquancy.
The main courses were two familiar favourites. As somebody who spent several years of my childhood in Malaysia, I couldn’t resist the Nasi Goreng, a deliciously spicy mixture of rice, chicken and shrimps, served with chicken skewers, a thick, lip-smackingly good peanut sauce and shrimp crackers. The whole thing is topped off with a soft fried egg. (In my childhood, Nasi Goreng was our equivalent of fish and chips. A man used to cycle around with a heated box of the stuff, which would be served wrapped in a banana leaf. Obviously, in that version the egg was of the scrambled variety but we loved it! Soba’s version was much more stylish but had an authentic taste that took me right back to those happy days.) Susan sampled the Pad Thai, a generously sized bowl of rice noodles and prawns, intensely flavoured with lime, ginger and tamarind. Again, it was everything that a Pad Thai should be – a delightful commingling of ingredients, topped with crunchy bean sprouts.
As I said earlier, portions are on the generous side, so we eschewed the dessert menu this time around. Neither was it the right opportunity to sample any of Soba’s cocktails, of which they are clearly very proud. I should perhaps mention that they are now offering an express lunch with two courses for just £8.95 (which is a bargain any way you look at it) and regular diners might like to consider investing in a trade card, which costs just £25 and offers 25% off main courses, cocktails for just £5 and ‘house pours’ – four of the most popular spirit and mixer combinations – for just £2.
Our meal for two with a couple of drinks came to just over £30. We’ll most certainly be eating there again.