My nearest urban centre is Penicuik, 10 miles from Edinburgh heading towards Peebles. It is a commuter haven with a population of around 16,000.
The town’s name is derived from Old Brythonic phrase Pen Y Cog, which means “Hill of the Cuckoo” but post industrialisation it was famous for its paper mills, the last one closed in 2004.
And most exciting of all is that a celebrity son of the toon, is Tommy Banner the accordion player for the Wurzels.
Nowadays as a conurbation the main draw is lower house prices, as people often work elsewhere, it’s the kind of place where takeaway restaurants thrive.
We all know that weekend feeling when you know there is nothing of interest to eat in the house and you’re too tired to make an effort.
A while back the resident’s forum was all a quiver when news first broke that the old snooker hall on Imrie Place was going to be turned into a Nepalese restaurant.
It is owned by Navin Kandel, also runs the award-winning Ghurka Bar and Restaurant in Musselburgh.
After that another restaurateur quickly opened his place, which had previously been known as The Clippers.
The best part was they called this new venture Gurkha’s. That fact was a bit of a hot topic locally.
I can’t imagine that Mr Kandel would have been too happy, but he opened his restaurant Koshi in February.
So with my pen and clipboard at the ready I decided to pitch these two rivals against each other, dish by dish.
First the menu selection, as no curry is complete without a portion of poppadoms, naan bread and pilau rice and vegetable samosas they made the list straightaway.
Of course I had to order the UK’s favourite, chicken tikka masala, to compare against each other plus a mixed vegetable curry from each venue.
Both orders were phoned in at 4:30pm on a Saturday and collected at 5pm, Gurkha’s bill came in at £30.70 while Koshi’s came in slightly more expensive at £34.17
However let’s drill down into the detail. Gurkha’s menu had promised us three poppadoms but we actually got one extra one, result (£2.25).
The chutney and pickle selection (£2.25) from Gurkha’s had a smooth mango chutney, red onion pickle, lime chutney (the fella’s favourite), and a yoghurt to cool those tastebuds, plus a bonus salad.
Koshi’s poppadoms were identically sized but cut in half into semi 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 yoghurt coloured yellow with turmeric, one spicier mango chutney pot and very similar looking red onion pickle. A hair’s breadth between them so far.
Next I got the tape measure out for the garlic naans, drum roll please… Koshi’s garlic naan measured 28cm in length (£2.75) which is sizeable but Gurkha’s came in at 44cm (£3), so a clear winner there.
But as we all know, size doesn’t matter and the tasting panel all agreed that Koshi’s was softer and fluffier.
The vegetable samosas from both venues came freshly made, Gurkhas supplied two chunky blobs filled with a moreish vegetable filling with a tamarind sauce for £3.95 while Koshi’s had three crisp parcels of joy with two portions of spicier red sauce for £4.50.
After much cogitation we plumped for the Gurkha’s but there was much discourse as to who had the best accompaniment.
It was still a close run thing neither restaurant pulling the killer punch. We had carefully selected the closest sounding vegetarian curries from each of the menus, so pitching Gurkha’s mixed vegetable masala (£7.50) against Koshi’s mixed curry (£8.95).
Both were marked as medium heat and were fairly spicy but with no surprise hot kicks. Almost identical looking, Koshi’s offered a softer consistency which didn’t win over the judges; our preference was for the crunchier bite of Gurkha’s.
Koshi’s pilau rice was a paler yellow compared to Gurkha’s, which just won the rice round but still level pegging. So the final outcome rested on the Chicken Tikka Masala from both venues.
By now with tension running high, the fella was sweating up at the thought of declaring a winner, although he would have much preferred a lamb madras to sample.
I can exclusively reveal 11.5 pieces of chicken in Gurkha’s offering, against 11 in Koshi’s, a visual inspection on the plated dishes placed Koshi’s slightly ahead of Gurkha’s, which had the brightest coloured sauce.
However on tasting, Koshi’s was let down by the sauce being too sweet but on a more positive note it the sauce was slightly thicker. However, when pressed the fella selected the redder dish as his favourite.
I guess It all comes down to personal choice but there wasn’t a lot between them. I know better than to declare one the absolute 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’s a winner.