Although I live in – and love – Edinburgh, I sometimes think I should have been born Spanish. I admire Spain’s culture and architecture, and am passionate about Spanish food – a much underrated cuisine in my book. Fortunately, Edinburgh has a smattering of Spanish-influenced eateries, albeit of variable quality and ambience. Portobello’s Malvarosa is intimate and serves great food, Cafe Andaluz is decent enough for a chain, and Barioja – well, sadly, it appears it may have seen better days, I’m sorry to say.
Now there is a welcome “nuevo adición” to Spanish dining in Edinburgh – La Mula Obstinada. Situated in a slightly cavernous, former warehouse building on Leith’s Queen Charlotte Street, which was previously home to the Englishman, Scotsman and an Irishman bistro, this relative newcomer appears to be making a genuine effort to bring a little bit of Spanish warmth to Edinburgh’s chilly winter (and spring) evenings.
The venue itself makes the most of its former warehouse credentials, combining whitewashed or bare stone walls with stripped wooden floors, all furnished with rustic-looking tables and chairs and archetypal Spanish art. Squint, and it’s just possible to believe this is a former cigarette factory in Seville, as opposed to an old warehouse in Leith.
Service was friendly and efficient, and we were quickly seated and briefed on the dining experience ahead. As we had plumbed for the tapas “menu”, we were asked if we had any particular culinary dislikes or allergies before it was explained that the tapas consists of dishes largely prepared from fresh, seasonal ingredients. It’s therefore not a case of choosing from a menu, instead partaking of whatever is ready to serve from the kitchen – which is reassuringly open to the dining area – at that particular moment in time. It was very enjoyable seeing the chefs prepare an appetising array of tapas dishes which were then efficiently whisked to which ever dining tables had consumed their last delivery of delicious delights.
Tapas stalwarts like calamares fritos, patatas bravas, and albondigas (meatballs in a rich tomato sauce) were both excellent and authentic. But further offerings, such as the char-grilled mackerel fillets, fabada (a rich bean and meat stew), and chickpeas with spinach and beef, really stood out. And what’s more, having taken advantage of a special offer, our evening was also excellent value for money, not least because the dishes literally kept coming until we could consume no more.
Chatting with the Maitre D’ (who I think may have been the owner – wish I had asked) I wasn’t surprised to learn he was from Seville and that the rest of the restaurant staff are also Spanish. Having also sampled the tapas of Seville – the “spiritual” home of this particular cuisine – first hand recently, I would recommend La Mula Obstinada if you hanker after an authentic flavour of Spain during the long Scottish winter/spring (and even into the summer too).
Food – 7/10
Atmosphere – 7/10
Service – 7/10
Value – 8/10
Ambience – Expect a venue with a cafe-esque, to informal bistro, ambience.
This review is based on one that was posted on Tripadvisor at the end of 2012. The restaurant has subsequently closed.