My nearest urban center is Penicuik, 10 miles from Edinburgh towards Peebles. It is a commuter’s paradise with a population of around 16,000.
The town’s name is derived from the Old Brythonic phrase Pen Y Cog, meaning “Cuckoo Hill”, but after industrialization it was famous for its paper mills, the last closed in 2004.
And most exciting of all is that a famous son of the toon, is Tommy Banner, the accordionist of the Wurzels.
As a conurbation these days, the main draw is falling real estate prices, as people often work elsewhere, this is the kind of place where take-out restaurants thrive.
We all know that weekend feeling when you know there’s nothing interesting to eat in the house and you’re too tired to make an effort.
A while ago, the residents’ forum was in turmoil when news first broke that Imrie Place’s former billiard hall was to be turned into a Nepalese restaurant.
It is owned by Navin Kandel and also runs the award-winning Ghurka bar and restaurant in Musselburgh.
After that, another restaurateur quickly opened his establishment, which was previously called The Clippers.
The best part was that they called this new business Gurkha’s. This fact was a bit of a hot topic locally.
I can’t imagine Mr. Kandel would have been too happy, but he opened his Koshi restaurant in February.
So, with my pen and clipboard ready, I set out to pit these two rivals against each other dish by dish.
First the menu selection, as no curry is complete without a serving of poppadoms, naan bread and rice pilaf and vegetable samosas, they made the list straight away.
Of course I had to order the UK favourite, chicken tikka masala, to compare against each other, plus a mixed vegetable curry from each venue.
Both orders were placed over the phone at 4.30pm on a Saturday and collected at 5pm, Gurkha’s bill was £30.70 while Koshi’s was slightly more expensive at £34.17.
However, let’s dive deeper into the details. Gurkha’s menu promised us three poppadoms but we actually got one more, result (£2.25).
Gurkha’s selection of chutneys and pickles (£2.25) included smooth mango chutney, red onion pickle, lime chutney (guy’s favourite) and yoghurt to refresh the taste buds, more a salad as a bonus.
Koshi’s poppadoms were the same size but halved in half circles, we also got an extra half moon included in the price, £4.99.
Both were equally crunchy. Koshi’s dip selection contained two tubs of yellow-colored yogurt with turmeric, a spicier tub of mango chutney, and a very similar red onion pickle. A hair between them so far.
Then I got out the measuring tape for the garlic naans, drum roll please… Koshi’s garlic naan was 28cm long (£2.75) which is important, but Gurkha came in at 44cm (£3), so a clear winner there.
But as we all know, size doesn’t matter, and the taste panel all agreed that Koshi’s was softer and chewier.
The vegetable samosas at both venues were freshly made, Gurkhas provided two large drops filled with a richer vegetable filling with tamarind sauce for £3.95 while Koshi’s had three crispy bundles of joy with two servings of sauce spicier red for £4.50.
After much consideration, we opted for the Gurkhas, but there was a lot of discussion about who had the best accompaniment.
It was always a short-term thing, with no restaurant pulling the killer punch. We had carefully selected the closest vegetarian curries to each of the menus, contrasting Gurkha’s mixed vegetable masala (£7.50) with Koshi’s mixed curry (£8.95).
Both were marked as medium hot and were quite spicy but no surprises. Almost identical in appearance, Koshi offered a smoother consistency which did not convince the judges; our preference was for the crunchier Gurkha bite.
Koshi’s rice pilaf was a paler yellow than that of Gurkha, who just won the rice round but still level. So the end result was based on Chicken Tikka Masala from both sites.
Warm under the collar
Now, with the tension at its height, the guy was sweating to declare a winner, even though he would have much rather tasted a lamb madras.
I can exclusively reveal 11.5 pieces of chicken in Gurkha’s offering, compared to 11 at Koshi’s, visual inspection on the plates put Koshi’s slightly ahead of Gurkha’s, which had the most colorful sauce.
However, when tasting, Koshi’s was disappointed with the sauce being too sweet, but on a more positive note, the sauce was slightly thicker. However, when pressed, the guy picked the reddest dish as his favorite.
I guess it all comes down to personal choice, but there wasn’t much between them. I know better than to declare this an outright winner so as a family we had a fabulous time judging each on their merits and the best result is that two local restaurants got our custom so everyone is a winner .