On Sunday I paid my second visit to this curious little restaurant in Shepherd Market, Mayfair London. I suspect the place suffers from being next door to Al Hamra, one of the best Lebanese restaurants in London and round the corner from Sofra, the flagship restaurant of a safe without being boring Turkish chain of restaurants in London. The first time we went, the proprietor was sitting outside and almost dragged us in. We really enjoyed the food and ambiance of the place, so I was keen to try again.
This visit was equally good. My companion doesn’t eat meat and was, perhaps, a little disappointed that the fish on the menu was either caviar (several varieties, all price on request) or grilled. And although the proprietor was keen to let us know how fresh it was, in the end he opted for a vegetarian main course (there was plenty of choice on the menu) and we shared two starters.
The first was a fresh spinach dip, Borani Esfanaj, very obviously made with fresh baby spinach as the leaves were still perceptible, and with a rich and creamy yoghurt. We also ordered Baba Ghanoush which was splendidly smokey. As an accompaniment we had lavash, which I suspect was cooked freshly for us on the bread oven
We continued the meal with a good helping of saffron rice each and with two stews. In my case I opted for Khoresht Fensenjan, a chicken stew made with walnuts and pomegranate. I have to admit, this was my main reason for wanting to go back to ‘Iran the Restaurant’. It was just as I remembered – and a splendid dish for a chilly wet spring afternoon. The dish appears with a muddy, brown, thick sauce that looks very strange to the European eye. But the taste is amazing. It manages to be rich and intense without overpowering the meat, which is so tender you can cut it with the edge of your fork. The proprietor looked worried…and asked me if I knew what I was ordering. Once I explained I’d had it before he relaxed and told us that it was a Persian speciality. It’s one that deserves to be known better and I am now looking for pomegranate syrup or molasses so I can try my own home version!
My companion chose an aubergine, lime and split pea stew, which he was happy with. The aubergine is known as the ‘Potato of Iran’ so many of the vegetarian dishes were based on aubergine. If I’d been a little less obsessed with the idea of trying the Fensenjan again, I would have suggested we shared a fish dish and a vegetarian stew so we could check the proprietor’s claim that his fish was was VERY fresh. But sometimes a selfish approach is the only one!
Iran is an unusual and interesting restaurant. In Shepherd Market the bill of just over £60 for a meal for two and a glass of rose in my case, a nigroni for my companion was very reasonable.
I’d recommend Iran London to anyone. And, if you eat meat the Fensenjan is worth trying.
27 Shepherd Market
telephone 020 7409 3337