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.

Winning in life – and at dinner – in the Wigmore…

The thing about the Wigmore is that it’s good. It’s really good. The fact that it’s barely five minutes’ walk from Oxford Circus – something which would normally put me off being anywhere near it – works in its favour here. You won’t quite be able to believe just how close you are to the part of London that makes normal people want to curl up in a corner and cry because it’s so beautiful and welcoming and soothing and buzzing and stylish inside. Those are adjectives never usually applied to a sentence containing the words ‘oxford’ and ‘circus’.

Decked out in shades of pistachio and olive, lit by glowing copper stemmed bulbs and offering polished wood, leather stools & the comfiest of armchairs, it looks for all the world like a cross between a movie-set court-room and the personal library of your Pinterest dreams. As someone with a bit of thing for bar-side dining, my tip would be to get there for an early-bird dinner and bag two seats on the back of the 360-degree bar. You’re on the quieter side of the space but perfectly placed within chatting distance of the very friendly bartenders. You’re also ideally seated for people watching, my favourite kind of acceptable nosiness.

With a menu from the pen and the pan of Michel Roux Jnr, the fact that it’s simple, elegant and exciting will come as no surprise. Certain dishes have, naturally, already become staples on London’s late 2017 Instagram dining scene – hello baby crumpets and giant toastie – whilst others are less showy but stonkingly delicious.

You can’t have a decent bar menu without chips. Here they arrive chunky as a Christmas lovers’ thighs come January 2nd when all that remains of the Quality Street are tooth shatteringly unlikeable toffee pennies. These chips are hot, crispy, fluffy and covered in an intensely sharp & moreish Bloody Mary Salt.IMG_4787Those afore mentioned crumpets are perfect two-bite canape inspiration and come topped with sweet crab meat, brittle slivers of seaweed and a smattering of paprika. Rich and fresh, this is the second time in as many months that I’ve seen these baby crumpets out and about and, as pugs & party food are proof that the world loves anything miniature, I’m just gonna place my bets and call them out now as something we’ll be seeing everywhere by the end of 2018.IMG_4793 Read More

Losing my heart to Morito…

Morito made me love aubergine.

Normally I’m all about personal accountability but I swear on this occasion, it’s totally, completely & utterly their fault. Never really liked it before but the way they do it here in the little sister of Clerkenwell stalwart Moro? Well let’s just say the aubergine and I have a lot of lost time to make up for.

There are so many things I loved about this new girl on Hackney Road but I have to start with the biggest & most important in my mind, and the fact that there’s now something else in the world for me to devour with passion is pretty significant to me.

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As a Tube devotee who balks at the first world problem of finding overground stations near my final destination, I wouldn’t say this is the easiest place in the world to get to but I swear on all that is good and delicious – yes, I am talking about those aubergines again – that it’s absolutely worth it.

I expected more tables given the generous size of the open plan dining room however the kitchen and bar area take up a fair portion so unless you’re super lucky or arrive as the door is being opened, chances are you may have to wait for a little bit…try not to ogle the meals of those lucky enough to be chowing down already while you do so but if you’re successful, please, let me know how the heck you managed it.

The Wednesday night we arrived heralded two seats in the window by the door almost instantly, perfect for people watching, a bit more challenging plate wise given that we ordered enough food to feed every participating country of the upcoming Olympic games.

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A perfectly sized menu lists a good number of options under each heading and at just £14.50 for the most expensive plate on offer, this is a great place to come with a group of your greediest friends to share both the dishes & the bill; I hate hearing that somewhere new & exciting has opened up only to discover that I can’t afford to enjoy it and the accessibility of Morito’s prices warrants another nod of approval from those not on a fat cat, city banker salary.

Easing my stomach in gently heralded winners including a plate of pan con tomate with jamon – warm & soft with the sun soaked flavours of the Med spilling out with each bite – and a beautifully varied bread basket.

‘I’m sorry, I’m not eating bread’ confessed my dining buddy.

‘I’m not sorry in the slightest’, I retorted as I tore apart piece after piece with the sort of voracity that might lead you to conclude I was carb-loading for the London Marathon.

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