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.

Chloe vs Mildred; drawing the vegan battlefield lines in London…

Throw a nutritional yeast dusted cauliflower in any direction at the moment in London and odds are you’ll find yourself hitting a vegan restaurant. Whether it’s full on plant based or a more gentle flexitarian approach, chances are you either know somebody or are somebody who’s adopted a meat free diet in a time when the whole world seems to be in the throes of animal free dining. Living in the capital means you’re spoilt for choice with vegan options that cover everything from the casual Cook Daily at Boxpark Shoreditch to the more formal Manna in Primrose Hill, as well as making sure you don’t go hungry at breakfast – try Farmacy in Westbourne Grove – or lunch – head to Ethos for PAYG plates – or dinner – Dalston’s Club Mexican will see you right.

However just because something appears to tick all the boxes of branding, product & vibe, doesn’t mean they actually deliver and recent meals at both Mildred’s in Soho and By Chloe in Covent Garden proved just this. In Mildred’s, you have a stalwart of London’s edible landscape and a small chain that’s been around since the late 80’s with cult-like fandom stretching across boroughs & generations. In Chloe, who rocked up earlier this year, we now have a darling of the New York food scene on this side of the pond and only in one location so far but with up to seven more being promised across the city by the end of 2018. That’s an impressive level of confidence and one that – along with the fervent adoration lavished on it in the Big Apple – made this somewhere that inched past other more long-standing inhabitants of my ‘must eat’ list. Let the lesson here be that this isn’t always a good thing… Read More

Clever Catalan small plates and a newly cultivated crush on all things tapas – this is Rambla…

Rambla aka the place that made me like octopus.

Not love it mind you – baby steps and all – but definitely like it more than I ever did after past tastings or recent viewings of ‘Blue Planet II’ where, let’s face it, they come across a bit mean, a bit beaky and a bit grumpy. In all fairness I’d probably spend my life looking pretty peeved if the threat of being fished, fried and served on earthenware pottery in the heart of Soho was ever present but I digress…

Catalan cuisine takes front and centre stage here at the place named after the leafy, bustling boulevard in Barcelona where chef Victor Garvey grew up. I’ve never been the world’s greatest fan of tapas – too many rubbery rings of calamari and over-cooked potatoes limply floundering in smeary tomato puddles – but Rambla offers neither of those things and has subsequently left me wondering how many years of very fine tapas I’ve missed out on and how exactly I’m going to rectify that situation now because these tapas, these tapas (cue finger jabbing at photos) I kinda have a thing for.

Eating at the bar has rapidly became my favourite way of dining; there’s something delightfully yet effortless cool about sitting across from the chefs and watching a parade of dishes strut past. Here you’ll find an abundance of doe eyed, dark haired staff all in possession of disgracefully long lashes and delightfully charming spirits, each one happy to genially chat through a menu split into land, sea and field, raw, cured and sweet. A small but decent wine list gives you the chance to try something new and fizzingly sweet or fall back on old favourites, as comforting and nostalgic as your dad’s worst jokes.IMG_4834Snacking whilst selecting has always made sense to me. Pan con Tomate arrives thickly spread and nicely straddling the line between squishy and chewy while Blistered Padron Peppers are softly charred & heavily crunchy with sea salt.IMG_4835 Read More