Hafez, W2

The Halal: All the meat and poultry is halal. No pork on the menu but alcohol is served here.

IMG_0901The Place: This quaint little Persian restaurant on Hereford Rd (off Westbourne Grove) stands out from its nearby rivals for its sophisticated (and unique) decor and aromatic food. The restaurant is cosy: small wooden tables, exposed brick walls mounted with silverware, imaginative chandeliers made from upside-down teapots and cups- it feels a bit Alice in Wonderland- but I really like it! The head chef, Farshid Ziafat, descends from a lineage of celebrated Iranian restauranteurs and chefs. He’s apparently a perfectionist and the food speaks for itself.

IMG_0899The Food: We started with a selection of mezze: cold baba ghanoush, hummus and kashk-e-bademjan ( a warm baked aubergine dip slow cooked with yoghurt, walnuts and mint. The cold mezze was good but if you’ve even been to the Middle East (or on Edgware road for that matter!) – this is nothing jaw-dropping. The warm aubergine was like Marmite- you either loved it or hated it. The smokiness brought about a deep meaty flavour. The bread was unanimously loved: soft and thin so you didn’t feel completely full before embarking on the main course!

IMG_0904For mains, we ordered several dishes for sharing. There were slow-cooked curries or ‘khoresht’. The presentation was homely shall we say- meat pieces floating in pools of gravy and standard white bowls did not look terribly inviting… Luckily the taste was better than the appearance! The house signature dish or  ‘Fesenjen’, was a chicken curry cooked in a gravy of ground walnuts and pomegranate. This again left us divided on the table: slightly sweet and yet sour – perhaps just an acquired taste as I’ve heard the Iranians claim this is the best you will find outside of Tehran. The ‘Bademjen’ aubergine curry cooked with plenty of tomatoes and herbs had a rich depth of flavour. The ‘Ghormeh Sabzi’ was a curry of lamb cooked in parsley, coriander and fenugreek- pleasant. However, the true star ended up being the accompaniment of ‘Zereshk’: fluffy aromatic rice cooked in butter and saffron with a relish of wild barberries, pistachios and almonds, this was heavenly!

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We were desperate to have the grilled meats and ordered boneless chicken and the ground lamb kebabs or ‘Kubideh’. Succulent, moist chicken which melted in your mouth – I am salivating just thinking about it! The kebabs were very good as well but WOW the chicken!!!

IMG_0906Wash all the aromas and spices down with a glass of cold, sweet rosewater ‘Sharbat’. (Or mix with half a glass of water if you don’t want to immediately become diabetic!)

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Before leaving, we were given a plate of complimentary Persian sweets: Jalebis and something reminiscent of a syrupy doughnut-hole. A lovely gesture to complete our meal.

The Price: Around £20 per person.

The Verdict: A great alternative to the usual Middle-Eastern affair: they’re not trying too hard to be authentic they actually are! I think the grilled meats were generally superior in taste and quality to the curries so when I go again, I’ll be ordering a bowl of barberry rice and a big plate of grilled chicken!

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