Aurora, 187 Great Junction St, Edinburgh, EH6 5LQ
Tel: 07946 650185
GPS: 55.973470, -3.176775

September 2023

What will patrons of Aurora, on Great Junction Street in Leith, say of it?

“Great food?” Possibly.

“Amazing value for money?” Very likely.

“Warm and welcoming service?” Certainly.

“Blink, and you will miss it?” Bingo, we have a winner!

It is a cliché, perhaps, but one that might be true in this case. Aurora’s street presence is not grand. The frontage, which supports three storeys of tenement building, is no wider than a single garage, and when the battered steel roller door is pulled down at the end of service that is exactly what it resembles. It appears only a little more distinguished when the doors are open, sandwiched as it is between a hair salon and a Caribbean food market. But do not be dissuaded or discouraged; step inside and all thoughts of garage parking, perms and plantains soon evaporate. This is a delightful little restaurant which deserves to be more widely known.

The style of cooking at Aurora, opened in 2017 by chef-patron Kamil Witek, is difficult to describe in a succinct fashion. Taking ingredients and methods which reflect his Polish roots, his previous stints at The Apartment and The Salt Café in Morningside, and his apparently globetrotting travels, Kamil sends out dishes with vibes that seem at one moment Mexican, then Spanish, then Italian. I have come up with a new term to describe this sweeping and swerving canter through the world’s cuisines; the menu here can only be described as Witekian.


Behind the battered white roller door is a bijou dining space with a small bar which doubles as the pass squeezed into one corner, beyond which lies the kitchen. The decor is minimal, pale blue walls and a ceiling which used to be white, finished with modestly ornate cornicing which surely dates to the time these buildings were thrown up in the early 19th century. A shelf supports a few bottles of wine, the lurid pink labels almost buzzing in the glare of a spotlight; hopefully they serve as ornaments rather than surplus stock. Further along, a few flacons of orange wine sit in a cage, presumably with the safety of innocent orange-averse diners in mind (the wine list, by the way, includes an ‘orange’ section).

The menu here offers five courses (six if you take the cheese course), with two options available for each, and of course there is the obligatory option of paired drinks, with both wine and piously non-alcoholic options available.

Diving straight in with the highlight of the evening, my third course of caramelle / aged pecorino / guanciale / truffle (pictured above) was enough to have me signing up as one of Kamil’s disciples. The moment the dish arrived at my table of plain polished pine I was enveloped in the heady and alluring scent of truffle shavings which tasted just as good as the aroma suggested. The caramelle, candy shaped packets of perfectly cooked pasta, oozed with a dense pecorino and guanciale filling, heart-warming and filled with umami, truffly, bacony goodness. More of this please. This was immediately followed by a dish of beef fillet / wasabi / peas / miso / kimchi (pictured below), well-presented and filled with potential, the cooking on the half-slice of fillet suitably precise, and it came with the unexpected bonus of a parcel of melting, flavoursome beef short rib. The wasabi, miso and kimchi added a complex touch of warmth, yet surprisingly the dominant flavour on the plate was not beef, nor any of those potentially chest-hair-inducing spices and condiments, but pea, which was perhaps the only downside to this dish. Still, on the whole, it worked. More of this as well, please.


The preceding dishes also brought some joy, particularly the second course, cod / leek / mussels / parsley / lemon (pictured below), a modest slice of cod loin garnished with slivers of preserved lemon and rock samphire. The citrus flavour here was quite dominant, but not enough to mask the residual pickling juices hiding in the heart of the mussels, while the cod was veering towards overcooked for my taste, although opinions on this (you don’t think I dine alone, do you?) were divided. The concept was as strong as the flavour coming from the generous spoonful of cod roe atop the dish, the selection and integration of the ingredients spot on, the execution and attention to detail perhaps falling slightly short.


Continuing to move backwards in time, the first course was perhaps the least inspiring of the evening, a combination of hominy / wild mushrooms / radish / avocado / lime which looked great on paper, but the execution here failed to deliver, the hominy not really showing through, the mushrooms seemed very shy on the night, and the end result felt like a combination of crudités and Mexican chili sauce. It failed to match expectations after what had been a super selection of amuses bouches, which included an impressive tomato salad dressed in flower petals, easily a candidate for best looking dish of the evening, a mini-bowl of good-quality olives, sliced charcuterie and top-notch bread, which was delicious dunked in the oil in which the olives were swimming, not so good when insulted with an application of the curiously tasteless whipped vegan butter.

Going to the other end of the evening, it finished on a high with a delicious platter of laphroaig / gochugaru / pecans / sesame seeds (pictured below), which although not immediately obvious translates as Laphroaig ice cream with a bare hint of gochugaru spice, with a more apparent touch of honeyed sweetness (hence the honeycomb biscuit resting atop it all, and the little biscuit bee was a nice touch), all partnered with a rough sesame sponge. This all worked very well together, essentially the perfect pudding combination, whisky ice cream with a little contrasting stodge. What’s not to like?


The wine list here is succinct, a single A4 page of options, and as noted includes an orange section (only three or four bins, but still noteworthy) while the remainder of the list is eclectic and esoteric. The three sparkling wines on offer lull you into a false sense of security; the Crémant de Loire from “Domaine de Chanceny” is in fact a from the large négociant De Chanceny, and while it does not inspire confidence their wines sometimes did well when I encountered them blind in the Decanter World Wine Awards. There is a sparkling Pineau d’Aunis from Frédéric Mabileau, and a non-vintage Champagne. After that, anything goes, with bins from Greece, Austria and Lebanon alongside more familiar names (although I am not really sure I am familiar with any of the wines listed). With the help of a blindfold and a pin I selected the 2022 Thymiopoulos Malagouzia & Assyrtiko, from Naoussa in Greece, which was as floral on the nose as my late lavender-doused grandmother, and while only modestly endowed with acidity had sufficiently prominent phenolic backbone to carry the majority of the dishes, even cutting through the beefy pea sauce. Just.

So what will the locals tell you of Aurora? Certainly it is small, with about eighteen covers squeezed into the garage. Sorry, I mean dining room. Certainly it is great value. Certainly the service is warm and welcoming. And while the journey from one dish to the next bumped along a little, there were sufficient high points here to wipe away the memory of the less inspiring dishes. I would certainly return to Aurora and the Witekian world of food. I just won’t be returning to that vegan butter any time soon.

Prices: The five-course menu is £65 per head, with wine pairing set at £45, and the non-alcoholic drinks pairing at £30. The cheese course, which offers dairy or plant-based options, is a £10 supplement, or £16 with matched drinks. The wine list kicks off at some very reasonable prices, with a Spanish Verdejo and a Beaujolais cru from £31 and £29 per bottle respectively, with ten by-the-glass options available. The Thymiopoulos was £54 per bottle. A service charge of 10% was included in the bill, which totalled £214.50 for two diners. (15/9/23)