Persian food to give you all the feels at Berenjak…

Date nights are the best nights.

Doesn’t matter if they’re taking place with your SO or your BFF.

Doesn’t matter if they’re take-out sandwiches and tinned cocktails along the river or candle-lit white linen starched into paper-cut-sharp submission.

Doesn’t matter if it costs a tenner and takes an hour or devours a weeks wages and keeps you there till midnight…

…they are the best.

If however they also happen to provide Persian food you’ll be dreaming about days later, even better and while there’s no shortage of brilliant places to satisfy those Middle Eastern food cravings in London, don’t take that to mean that we couldn’t use another in which to indulge.

Enter stage right, Berenjak.

The first solo project from founder Kian Sanyani, himself the former head chef at Mayfair’s Gymkhana, this Soho sat restaurant blends the ever casual-ever welcoming kebab houses of Tehran with the beautiful seasonal produce of Britain. With a name inspired by the crunchy rice snacks found most often at travelling Iranian funfairs, Berenjak is a place designed for sharing small plates with family & friends in the most delicious and belt-busting of ways.

Kick things off with a house cocktail; the ‘hard’ version of Berenjak’s pomegranate iced tea comes laced with rose vodka, hibiscus and the approval of both David Attenborough for the metal straw and, well, me for the sheer deliciousness of it.

If a dish has caught the eye, the imagination and the bellies of London’s most ardent eaters, perfectly lit photos of it will litter the pages of Instagram…

…so I can do nothing but hold my hands up and shrug un-apologetically when I say here’s another in the shape of the house hummus.

Made with black chickpeas, walnuts, tahini and (one of the best spices you can have rolling around in your rack at home) russet coloured, fruity-yet-tangy sumac, this is hands down the silkiest hummus in town right now. No chunky, rustic texture on this heavy silver platter, just the sleekest mountain of deeply savoury umami flavour you could ever genuinely wish to fall face first into.

Paying homage to the King of Kebabs…

I love Le Bab. Literally, love it. If I could, I’d draw big, glittery pink, teenage girl hearts all over these words.

I love the fact that it’s small and pretty and full of beautifully tiled floors & walls like the offspring of a torrid Middle-Eastern-meets-Lisbon love affair.

I love that it’s on the top floor of Kingly Court and has windows that just beg to be flung open on a sunny evening so that you can enjoy a gentle breeze as passers-by weep with (righteous) envy.

I love that the staff are totally on the ball, that they’re sincerely but not sycophantically friendly, that they talk about the food with honest appreciation and that some of them wear shirts that match the tiles. Now I’m think this is a coincidence but equally I’m not gonna judge when they bring me plates of food I want to wrap my arms around & guard secretively while devouring the contents with a ferocity that would impress the Southern state champions of any July 4th pie eating contest.

I love that the length of the menu doesn’t require me to book in thirty minutes before I actually want to eat to work my way through it and I love that the only thing better than the way the food looks is the way it tastes with every single thing made in house.

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I’ve been trying to eat here for a while but until now, I’ve never managed to bag a walk-in that suited or got my act together enough to book in advance. Well my friends, all that has now changed. I got my booking and I ate like a queen and you can bet a portion of fondue fries, that I’ll be securing a return visit, off chance walk-in as soon I can.

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Le bab bhajis are made with braised lamb shoulder, beef shin & onion and come served with a smoky chilly mayonnaise. There are two in a portion which makes them perfect for sharing; make sure you come with someone you really like because frankly, if you didn’t try and eat them both yourself, I’d judge you a little bit for your lack of competitive spirit. These things are gorgeous. Crispy, lightly spiced and full of juicy meat packed with flavour, they’re the kind of thing that makes you sad to eat because like the start of year feast at Hogwarts, you just want the plate to magically keep refilling itself but we all know you’re a muggle and that’s not your destiny.

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London is a city in love with hummus and this version, topped with crunchy, sticky nuts and accompanied by softly deflated flatbreads is a cracker. Earthier in flavour rather than sharp from the addition of lemon, it comes in the sort of miniature cast iron skillet that you rather fancy would make everything taste better because it’s just. Too. Cool.

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Spiced cauliflower pastillas come looking not too dissimilar to long, crispy cylinders of baklava but are full of lovely crumbly texture and snuggle up perfectly with charred pineapple yoghurt. This, kids, is the sort of thing you eat out, reckon would taste good on everything and then try to recreate at home with varying degrees of success depending on how much wine you’ve consumed at the same time. Save yourself the hassle of coring pineapples, setting off your smoke alarm, spattering yourself with melted butter and just come back here.

The kebabs themselves are seasonal but, given the ambience of the place, I anticipate they’re probably done with a little bit more class than ‘hey it’s December, let’s throw a stuffing ball and some neon cranberry sauce at this one!’

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Lamb comes deliciously charred and adorned with gorgeously vibrant dollops of emerald chermoullah mayo while paneer – best cheese ever? Let’s just say I’d like to put it in the ring with a wedge of gorgonzola and see who wins – is BBQ’d and sits fatly on top of beetroot puree with curry mayo, pickled celery and a Miss. World worthy crown of crispy onions. All hail here please.

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I’m equally admiring and suspicious of anyone who could come here, see fondue fries on the menu and order the heirloom tomato salad. Those ripe round beauties have their place and it’s on a gloriously crisp summer tart with lashings of olive oil and sea salt. It is not here, usurping the rightful place at my table of something oozy, thick, cheesy & delicious.* **

*Insert Tom Hiddleston joke here please

**Actually, I love me some Hiddleston so that was said with love Tom, said with love.

I feel sure that more things would be made better in the world – Trump’s America, the films of Adam Sandler, crocs on adults – with the addition of a small saucepan full of melted cheese to pour over the top. These double cooked chips are golden, crispy and strong enough to withstand the cheese overload that’s so very right at this any point in time.

I started this article by laying my cards unashamedly on the table and declaring my love for Le Bab. I’ll end it by saying I have a job that I love, love, love however this places makes me wanna click on the ‘Work For Us’ button just to see if a P/T role as chief taster and all round fatty exists because, like my love for French Bulldogs, Keanu Reeves and the music of 80’s soft rock gods Chicago, this is a crush that ain’t fading anytime soon.

Birthday dining atop the City of Angels…

Dear, darling readers, how are you all?  I hope this post finds you well rested after a weekend doing – and more importantly, eating – lovely things.

I’d like to take you away for a few moments if I may, take you somewhere special, somewhere you may have the same knee-jerk-love-or-hate reaction to as chilled red wine, Ben Affleck movies or Honey Boo Boo, somewhere fondly known as La-La Land, the Big Orange, the City of Angels, that’s right dearies – ooh I heard the voice of Mrs. Doubtfire when I said that! – we’ve arrived at the last destination on our epic road-trip, the place that is both J’s and my spiritual home, a city sweating slightly at a mere 100 degrees and climbing…say hello to Los Angeles.

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