In Iran, where the home-kitchen is revered, eating out in restaurants always plays second to the sophistication of a home-cooked meal. Apart from occasional visits to a local chelo kabobi to enjoy grilled kebabs served with saffron rice, Iranians almost always prefer to eat at home.
It is perhaps because of this emphasis on home-cooking that Iranian restaurants haven’t really flourished in the West in the way that other migrant diaspora cuisines have. But it seems that this is changing. In recent years there has been a flurry of Persian-esqe eateries opening up in London many of which are serving modern, healthy and fresh flavoured takes on classic Iranian food. Here are some of my favourite spots
This delightful restaurant on Portobello road is the place to go to if you want to sample some of Iran’s signature kebab dishes. Start as Iranians do with a few appetizers of some fresh naan bread, kashk-e badinjoon (a garlic and aubergine dip) and sabzi khordan (a large platter or fresh herbs, radishes and feta cheese). Then tuck into some succulent tender lamb kebabs or maybe some grilled chicken, marinated in saffron and yoghurt, and cooked over charcoal. Be sure to get some tahdig (crispy rice crust) on the side – it is the best bit of any Iranian meal! www.anarpersiankitchen.co.uk
Soli Zardosht’s ever-popular food stall on Broadway market is a great place to pick up some Persian inspired street food, salads and snacks. Colourful, bright and packed with fresh flavours, Soli’s food makes you feel healthy just by looking at it. It doesn’t let down on taste either and is a great place for vegetarians as many of the dishes have a seasonal plant-based focus. You can also find Zardosht’s food at Café Oto in Dalston. https://www.facebook.com/Zardosht-146974342039458/
This petite daytime café in Fitzrovia has small but perfectly formed menu of Persian inspired dishes and a tantalising daily specials of classic Iranian stews and rice pilafs. Try the ‘Tahchin’ – a saffron and yoghurt baked rice dish which is rare to find in any Persian restaurant in the UK or in Iran. Excitingly, this is the only place in London I’ve seen that serves koloocheh – a sweet braided pastry stuffed with ground walnuts, cinnamon and cloves which is a regional delicacy from northern Iran. They are best enjoyed with a small cup of black tea, Persian style.
Din Din Kitchen
Also known as the ‘Persian Pret-a-Manger’, this bright, buzzing, café on Grey’s Inn Road is a cheerful lunchtime spot. I recommend getting a selection of the little mezze dishes such as the smoked aubergine and tomato salad, the cucumber, raisin, mint and yoghurt dip and the feta with fresh herbs & radishes. They have a great selection of kukus (which they call soufflés) as well as wraps, soups and salad pots, all packed with Persian flavour. They also serve Crodoughs (a cross between a croissant and a doughnut). These are not Persian but are frankly so delicious that you might as well treat yourself to one.