Woo-Who! It's Edinburgh's Curry Tardis!

So we've arrived at the fifth and final week of TATTGOC's very special Edinburgh curry exodus, and what better digestif than a guest post by our very own capital-based Curry Clubber, The Poppadominator? Since the Tramps first started banging on about their Edinburgh plans, The Poppadominator has been raving about a very special street food vendor in Bruntsfield (and it looks like it recently caught the eye of STV Local too). Very kindly, he filed this special report. And is it only coincidence that the brand-new series of Doctor Who starts this Saturday ... or did he plan it along?

Edinburgh's Curry Tardis, by The Poppadominator

In the early 1930s the wonderfully monikered Ebenezer MacRae was tasked with designing Edinburgh’s police boxes. He took the familiar TARDIS-style blue cubes, made them bigger, more rectangular than their Glaswegian and English counterparts and added neo-Classical flourishes in harmony with the city’s love of pediments and columns. MacRae created mini-temples with a flavour of ancient empire.

Nutan Bala has revived one of these arcane boxes via the spirit of the original design, if not its initial purpose. The air around her police box in Bruntsfield is thick with smells first brought here on the currents of a now extinct empire. She has transformed it into a place for Edinburgh curry lovers to worship.

Bala, originally from Dehli, opened Bollywood: The Coffee Box last year. It has quickly become an institution. Inside her tiny space she achieves miracles. It is the closest thing the city has to authentic Indian street food. For starters, you get served on the street. Then there is the menu. It is very simple, only a handful of dishes to choose from each day. Some ingredients are prepared at her home, but Bala cooks most of her curries, dhals, and pakoras on her tiny electric hob from scratch in front of you. The scents leap from the pan and catch the back of your nose.

Finally, and most wonderfully, there is Bala herself. Everyone knows her. Cyclists ting their bells as they whizz by. Cars toot their horns. White van men stop in for lunch. On evenings local kids congregate and dance with her around the box. With her alto laugh she will call regular punters from across the street.

Like all good street food, eating here is not a passive experience. In the 10 minutes it usually takes to cook an average meal Bala will gladly share her life story. She left northern India to study sculpture at Edinburgh College of Art. Upon graduation she worked as a support worker before moving gathering together her family recipes and moving into her police box. Her greatest fear is the spitting hot oil that she cooks with in her confined space. Her greatest love is her new community. One side of her box has been painted white and will display art work from the local population.

But it is for her curry that people come. In recent sunny weeks lines formed late into the evening to get a few samosas to munch on in Bruntsfield Links.  Her chilli pakoras are ridiculously moreish. The batter is light and sweet, balancing the bite of the chilli. She serves them in paper bags last seen housing one-penny chews. 

Her chickpea curry with pilau rice is simple, hearty and for three quid, the best value curry in town. The chicken curry is hot, dry, and zingy.  Her spicy parathas are the perfect way to scoop up the dregs as you sit on a nearby hillock overlooking the castle. You can dine like a mughal for under a fiver.

The council are now selling off the police boxes. Many will be removed. Some will serve coffee. Others will serve visiting Doctor Who fans. But by marrying Edinburgh’s twin loves of preserving the past and Indian food, Bala has found the perfect use for her blue corner of the capital. McRae would no doubt approve.

NEXT WEEK: Surely it must be back to Glasgow business as usual for our burly heroes? Or do they have something else planned? Find out here September 6

Courtesy Of Cafe India, A Very Special TATTGOC Tapas Tastin'
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