Reviewed by William Dobson
I came quite late to the supper club (or pop-up restaurant) trend which seems to have taken London by storm over the last couple of years. While I was busy contributing to the downfall of the Dubai property market, people started turning up to stranger’s houses, cash in hand, and expected restaurant quality food in return. When I finally got in on the act, I was consistently left disappointed. The problem was the food, by and large, just wasn’t restaurant quality. Indeed, it usually wasn’t any better than the competent cook could do at home for a fraction of the price. The cynic in me could only deduce that, for the proprietors, this was just a way to make a name in the food business without the sweat, blood and tears, not to mention significant financial outlay, that goes into setting up a fully fledged restaurant. That was until I frequented The Persian Kitchen, run by Sabrina Ghayour, a chef and writer of Iranian origin.
Based in Islington, this was the first time I’ve walked out of one of these events and thought to myself ‘wow, that was good, really good,’ right from start to finish. It succeeded in doing what other pop-ups I’ve been to have tried and failed to achieve; dinner party conviviality and interesting company with high quality food. The location itself was minimalist and utilitarian in décor, no Arabesque touches that one might have expected. Ultimately though, rather than detracting from the evening, this allowed the food to speak for itself without hiding behind unnecessary gimmicks. And it really did.
Instead of the more conventional three individual courses, Sabrina went all out to produce a true Persian feast, full of exotic flavours and vivid colour. To begin, a seemingly unending caravan of mezze was brought to the table, replete with apple and sumac salad, sharp and fresh, bejewelled with pomegranate seeds; kotlet, or spicy minced beef and potato patties, brightened with fresh coriander; and maast-o-khiar, a yoghurt and cucumber dip, enhanced with mint, rose petals and more pomegranate seeds, dainty, pretty and delicious, even for a pathological hater of cucumber like myself. However, it was mirza ghasemi that was truly exceptional. Similar to the more renowned baba ghanouj, this aubergine dip, was full of a wonderfully deep and smokey flavour and mellow garlic, while the less customary addition of tomatoes was a welcomed twist, adding a sharp, sweetness and an appetising earthy red.
With the bar raised high, the main courses had a lot to live up to, a feat they accomplished with consummate ease. The spice perfumed lamb shoulder, brought whole to the table to be ‘carved’ by the customer with the spoon provided, was slow-cooked to perfection, soft and moist, delicately spiced with cumin, cinnamon and sumac, and quite delicious. Even better was the joojeh kebab, a roast poussin marinated in saffron and preserved lemon. Rather than merely imparting a hint of citrus, the whole chicken had been infused with exotic tartness. However, it was the butternut squash which was the unsung hero of the night. Refusing to stand in the shadow of its more heralded accompaniments, it was roasted until almost treacly sweet, and balanced beautifully with salty feta, sharp barberries, and a topping of crunchy pistachio pesto; so much more than just a sum of its parts. All of this came with morrassah polow, Persian rice, flawless in its fluffiness and enticingly fragrant; the addition of pistachios, almonds, barberries and orange peel elevating it to a dish in its own right.
After the magnificence that had proceeded it, the dessert was always going to struggle to keep such exulted company and, as expected, the almond, carrot, cocunut and pistachio cake couldn’t really compete. However, that’s only a reflection of how good everything was, rather than a criticism of the cake itself, which was light with nutty sweetness and served with cream, redolent of roses. Finally, despite being 40 quid poorer by the end of the evening, I actually felt like I’d spent my money wisely, rather than forking out for a fad.
Visit Restaurant Website
Address: It's a secret
Average Price Per Person: £40