I’ve been wanting to try Kateh, a Persian restaurant near Little Venice (north of Paddington), for a while. And when I joined a few colleagues for a dinner there one Friday night, I was not disappointed. What I didn’t expect was such a tiny yet elegant restaurant and the terrace where we were seated was lovely. Though it was chilly that evening, the heaters were on full blast and we never felt cold.

Back to the elegance, this is possibly the most refined Persian restaurant I’ve visited in London. Portion sizes are more European in size rather than the usual overflowing platters I tend to get at other Persian restaurants in London. But it’s a lovely, rather romantic place, which, of course, I visited with my colleagues (ahem). The menu was full of things I’ve not seen in other restaurants and the grills had a distinctly Indo-Persian flavour to it (chicken tikka?). We stuck to the purely Iranian things.

We split three starters between us. My favourite was the kashke bademjan, a dish of grilled baby aubergine topped with kashke (a dried yoghurt), dried mint, fried onions and walnuts. Oh, that silky aubergine was gorgeous – I could have eaten just a few orders of this for my dinner!

Kashke Bademjan

Less impressive was the Dezfouli salad, a mixture of pomegranate seeds, cucumber, dried mint, angelica powder and lemon juice. While the combination sounded magical, it tasted alright at best. Perhaps we expected that angelica powder to make quite an impact! (I’m still not entirely sure what this is!)

Dezfouli Salad

The mast va khiar damavand was a refreshing combination of thick yoghurt and cucumber mixed with dried mint, raisins and walnuts.

Mast va Khiar Damavand

We mopped up all that yoghurt with a couple orders of freshly baked taftoon, a delicious Persian flatbread that’s just slightly thicker than lavash.

Taftoon

We also split our main courses. The mixed grill (for two) was a combination of their various kebabs: koobideh (minced veal), joojeh (saffron marinated chicken breast), chenjeh (marinated pieces of best end of Organic Rhug Farm lamb), and rack of lamb. The meats were very good but of particular note was the chenjeh – that lamb was incredibly tender and tasty.

Mixed Grill

With everything came perfectly cooked saffron rice, here topped with butter (there should always be butter…especially with kebabs – and perhaps I’ll adopt that as the motto for my life). The only quibble I have is the portion size – I can really down my rice and a larger serving would have been welcome!

Saffron Rice

The classic fesenjan (a pomegranate and walnut based stew) was served here with confit Barbary duck leg. While I thought the duck could have been a bit more tender, the sauce was rich and complex and utterly wonderful. I really do need to learn to make this at home.

Fesenjan

Aloo Esfanaj was one of my favourites that night and a real discovery for me. This stew of baby chicken, spinach and fresh Bukhara plums was a fabulous mix of sweet and sour and I almost licked the bowl clean.

Aloo Esfenaj

We ordered some Persian tea which came in what I believe is not a traditional Persian teapot. The black tea was very welcome after all the rich food though and with dessert.

Persian Tea

Desserts were also shared. A melting chocolate fondant was served with pistachio ice cream.

Chocolate Fondant

A couple slices of baklava cake, though while not strictly Persian (um…neither is chocolate fondant), were fantastic with the tea.

Baklava Cake

The bill came to a little over £30 for each of us (food only, no drinks except for the tea). It’s the kind of price I’d expect for the quality of the food and elegant plating and posh location but it was possibly the most expensive Persian food I’ve had in London. But still, if that’s the most expensive Persian food I’ve had in the city, it makes Persian food still a bargain, no?

Kateh
5 Warwick Place
London W9 2PX

Kateh on Urbanspoon

After grabbing many a takeaway from Persian Nights in nearby Ealing Common, we finally sat down to eat at the establishment with Blai’s parents when they visited over the new year. Knowing that they are very generous with the portion sizes, we insisted on ordering three main courses between the four of us and skipping starters.

First was a weekend special of Zereshk Polo, a stewed chicken dish served with rice topped with barberries, almonds and pistachios (£7.95). While the chicken is fine, it’s the rice that’s the star, with the tart barberries. Utterly addictive.

Zereshk-Polo

We also had a Chelo Kebab e Koobideh, two minced lamb kebabs served with rice (£6.95). I’ve always loved these Persian kebabs and these were especially fine and tender. And see that butter? Yeah, melt that over your rice. They can also be served with freshly baked flatbread instead of rice.

Chelo-Kebab-E-Koobideh

Finally, one of Persian cuisine’s most famous stews – Khoreshte e Fesenjan, a stew of chicken in a sauce made of walnuts and pomegranate puree (£8.95). This was luscious and so much more complex than we imagined. It’s definitely a firm favourite of ours now. This was served with another pile of perfectly steamed rice.

Khoreshte-E-Fesenjan

And even with just three dishes, we packed up enough leftovers for another meal for one! Portion sizes are huge!

We still found space for dessert though! I shared an order of Bastani with Blai. This Persian ice cream was saffron flavoured and studded with pistachios and chips of frozen cream. It was just the right size to share too after the huge meal.

Bastani

I do recommend their bread and starters (though I’m not a fan of their Salad Olivier) and their rice with broad beans and dill served with lamb. Reviews online are very mixed though and I do hope they keep the high level of quality and service that I’ve experienced.

Persian Nights
379 Uxbridge Road
London W3 9SA

Persian Nights Restaurant on Urbanspoon

A last-minute meeting (and a long one to boot) in the middle of the day scuppered our plans for a jolly of a day: it was the day after meeting a big deadline and we were in the mood to celebrate. It was mid afternoon when we got out but all was not lost. Our close proximity to Edgware Road had us skipping down the road to Patogh for a late lunch of Persian kebabs. I’ve been a big fan of Patogh but hadn’t been back in a while; luckily, nothing seems to have changed about it. It’s still dark and tiny with a smokey ground floor with its open kitchen and a less smokey first floor and we chose to sit in the latter.

The portions have also remained large, as they were before, and we skipped starters and went straight for the mains. An order of kebab koobideh with bread (£6) resulted in this being brought to the table. Two tender minced lamb kebabs lay nestled in a large flatbread all topped with a small onion and herb garden. Try as we might, we couldn’t finish the huge circle of fresh bread between us.

Kebab Koobideh on Bread

A barg kebab (lamb and about £8, I think) was ordered with rice. The lamb was excellent but to me, it was the rice that was the star. Light and fluffy and each grain was perfectly separated and it was wonderful to eat with the hot grilled tomatoes. The only thing missing was a big pat of butter on top though perhaps we should have asked for it.

Lamb Kebab with Rice

With a mint yogurt drink (doogh) and some shallot yogurt for bread dipping, the total for the two of us came to £16.50 – what a bargain. If lamb’s not your cup of tea, they have chicken kebabs too; I also have a soft spot for their grilled chicken wings.

Patogh
8 Crawford Place
(off Edgware Road)
London W1H 5NE

Patogh on Urbanspoon

There are a surprising number of Persian restaurants and shops in Olympia, Hammersmith and Chiswick. I’m not sure why there are so many here – does any one know? I’m not one to complain, of course; I adore Persian food and love that it’s all here on my (West London) doorstep. I was a-hankering for some and so last Saturday, Blai and I went out for a date night and while we were turned away from our first choice as it was packed, we managed to find one free table at another equally packed Persian restaurant just across the street from the first. This restaurant was Faanoos; their first restaurant is in Richmond and this Chiswick branch is their second.

We started with their Mixed Mezeh for 2 (£7.95) and it was a good introduction to what I suppose must be their most popular dips.

Mixed Mezeh

Going clockwise from the top there’s:

  • Mast o Moosir (yogurt with wild garlic), which was gloriously garlicky and zingy
  • Pickles – I spotted cauliflower, cabbage, carrots in the mix; they were quite strong
  • Salad Olivieh (chopped potatoes, eggs, chicken and pickled cucumber mixed with mayonnaise and lemon juice) – this is essentially a Russian salad all mushed up and surprisingly, it tasted fantastic!
  • Kashk e Bademjan (fried aubergine and onions with yogurt puree) – pretty good but I felt like something was missing from it… that said, I have no idea what it should taste like

Next time, we’ll likely just order one or two of our favourites rather than go all out with the platter again. To go with all this, we had a round of Persian bread (£1), freshly baked in the oven next to us. That man was churning out flatbread after flatbread; the demand was pretty relentless. The small restaurant gets through quite a bit of bread.

Persian Bread

Oven

We split two main courses. First, a grill, of which there are quite a few on the menu: Chelo Kabab Koobideh (£6.50), which was two skewers of a most tender and juicy minced lamb with a side of saffron rice, grilled tomatoes and salad. The only quibble was that I prefer my tomatoes to be much more grilled, allowing for you to squish the hot juices into your rice. Also, we weren’t brought any butter (lovely melted into your rice too) – they forgot. If they forget to bring you butter, remember to ask for it!

Chelo Kabab Koobideh

Second, an Okra stew (£6.95) full of lots of soft baby okra and lamb that fell apart at a touch of the fork, all in a thin tomato and garlic sauce. Rice on the side, of course. The flavours were gentle but extremely soothing and those flavours certainly popped more when the stew had cooled a bit from its piping hotness when it was brought to us.

Okra and Lamb Stew

Okra and Rice

With a bottle of sparkling water and a glass of doogh, a salty yogurt drink, date night cost us a total of £28. Service was generally good and the space itself was strangely homely… if your home had chopped straw covered walls. It’s well worth a visit if you’re craving something of that ilk in the area.

Faanoos Restaurant
472 Chiswick High Road
London W4 5TT

Faanoos Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Growing up in Vancouver, I had a number of Persian friends, the Persian community being quite strong there. I even remember my first real taste of Persian food – one good friend booked a Persian restaurant for her birthday and we ended the night on the dancefloor with that night’s belly dancer. I remember starting with a salty crumbly cheese with herbs and then continuing with grilled meats served with fluffy basmati rice. That was the first time I tried this cuisine and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Later my family would discover lavash bakeries and even more grilled meats and the luxury of letting a huge pat of butter melt into one’s rice and sumptuous grilled tomatoes. Strangely, it wasn’t until I got to London though that I finally dipped my toes (not literally!) into Persian stews, of which there seems to be hundreds of types.

This stew is one of my favourites, with its slight tang from the dried limes and the lush texture of the aubergines. There are a number of recipes online – all of them different, of course, and I’m sure the number of recipes would continue to increase if I was to survey a number of Iranian families too. Everyone seems to have their own version and here is mine. I used beef (its use seems to be more common in North America) but you can use lamb too (more common here). It isn’t the prettiest of stews (well, you could arrange the aubergines to look very nice on top) but it is definitely tasty!

Khoresht Bademjan on Rice

Khoresht Bademjan
serves 3.

10 baby aubergines (the long Asian kind)
1 large onion, chopped
500g beef or lamb, cut into chunks
olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-1/2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
2 tbsps tomato paste
1 tsp turmeric
3 small dried limes
large pinch sugar
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 200C. Line a baking tray with tinfoil and brush the foil with a little olive oil. Clean and trim the stems off the aubergines and then cut them into quarters lengthwise. Place them skin side down on the baking tray and brush liberally with oil. Roast for about 15-20 minutes until they are soft. Set aside.

Place a pot over medium-low heat and when hot, add a good coating of olive oil to the bottom. Add the chopped onion and cook until soft and transparent. Add the beef or lamb, turn the heat up to medium and fry until browned. Add the garlic and continue cooking for a minute or two. Then add the tomatoes, tomato paste, turmeric, and about 1-1/2 cups water (add more if needed to cover the meat) and bring to a boil. Pierce the limes here and there (you’ll need a strong skewer) and add to the pot too. Lower the heat to bring the pot to a simmer and simmer half covered for an hour.

After the hour is up, the meat should be tender but continue cooking if it isn’t so. Add the sugar if required (to balance the sourness). Add the cooked sliced aubergine, stir through and cook until the aubergines are all heated through. Discard the dried limes and serve the stew on basmati rice.

I just got back from New York and it was a terrific trip – thanks for all your suggestions! I ate very very well and I still need some time to process all my photos and to collect all my notes on all the great food we ate. I’ll first write about Sufi, an excellent Persian restaurant in West London that I visited with Blai just before my trip. I had been thinking about Persian food all week and when I learned of this budget restaurant (with great reviews) not too far from us, I took Blai there for dinner one night.

We ordered the platter for two. The waitress immediately warned us that this Sufi’s special would take at least 15 minutes and would we like any appetisers? We decided not to have any, worried about the size of this just might overwhelm us.

As they seemed very worried that we had not ordered any appetisers for the wait, they soon brought over some yogurt with sweet garlic with freshly baked flat nan bread, complimentary for the wait. The warm flat bread, topped with sesame seeds, had been just baked in the oven by the window and the yogurt was a wonderful cold, creamy contrast. Delicious and a good sign of things to come.

Nan Bread and Mast-o Mosier

The Sufi’s special for 2 consisted of one skewer of marinated chicken (joojeh kebab), one skewer of baby lamb fillet (kebab barg) and two skewers of minced lamb kebabs (kebab koobideh) served with grilled tomatoes and two plates of basmati rice, one for each of us.

Sufi's Special for Two

Basmati Rice

All the meats were so tender and wonderfully flavourful. The minced lamb kebabs had a slightly different spicing to what I was used to but this didn’t make them any less delicious. The chicken was breast meat, my least favourite cut of the bird, but was so juicy and well marinaded that I snarfed it up. The lamb fillet, well, it was gorgeous – what else can I say? The rice was fluffy and well separated as most Persian rice is but while the tomatoes are normally my favourite part, these could have been a little riper. Still it was a great platter of meat and the waiter exclaimed great surprise that we were able to put away the whole thing between the two of us.

Despite the size of that platter, we still found room to share a small dessert. This is their homemade coconut pudding made with milk, coconut, rosewater and pistachios. It was creamy and flecked with many flakes of dried coconut. Who knew that coconut and rosewater went well together?

Homemade Coconut Pudding

All this plus a large bottle of still water came to £30. Pretty good for the feast we had – definitely on my to-return list. The easiest way to get there is to either take the tube to Hammersmith and then take a 266 (it starts at Hammersmith bus station) to Askew Road or take the 207 bus from Shepherd’s Bush and walk down from the Askew Road stop.

Did I mention the belly dancer? She came and danced a 15 minute set (this was a Friday night) and if you want to watch the performance, make sure you get a table towards the back.

Sufi
70 Askew Road
London W12 9BJ

Sufi on Urbanspoon

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