Middle Eastern

Arianna II – Kilburn

Since moving from the leafy streets of Maida Vale to the slightly more ‘authentic’ (and a lot more cheap) Kilburn, I’ve been doing two things: saving money and exploring new places to eat. DQ and I have already found our staple takeaway places…

  1. La Basque for pizza
  2. Alex Plaice for fish and chips
  3. The Haandi House for curry
  4. Woody Grill for a messy kebab at 3am

I was ready to find somewhere to sit down, and the first place we tried was Arianna II, an Afghan restaurant on Kilburn High Road and an absolute gem of a place. Brilliant food, cheep and cheerful, and BYOB. Can you think of a better combination?arianna ii kilburn

We started with the Kadoo Buranee, a wonderfully aromatic warm pumpkin dish perfect for a winter evening. Along side, we enjoyed some fresh hummous, pita and some piping hot  meat samosas, smacking of ground cumin and chili.

I was insanely excited for the Kabuli Palow, and it didn’t disappoint. The shank was so tender that as soon as I picked up the bone (see Exhibit A), the lamb literally slid off the bone. Served on top of a sort of pilau with carrots, raisins, almonds and pistachios, it was the perfect combination of savoury and sweet.

arianna ii kilburn

Exhibit A

DQ went with the slightly more boring, but all together tasty Chicken Kebab. It was surprisingly spicy, and certainly enjoyable, if not a little predictable. He’s a boy who likes his chicken though, so what can you do?

Dessert was Firnee and Afghan-style pistachio pudding with a consistency not unlike a flan. After this much food, it was a welcome, light and slightly sweet note to end the meal.

arianna ii kilburn

All this, plus BYOB meant that our bill came to £25.00. That’s in total. Not per head. Rock on, Arianna II. We’ll be back.

 

Ariana II on Urbanspoon

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Kateh – Madia Vale/Little Venice

A hidden gem, would be the only way to describe Kateh – mainly because it is actually quite hidden. Tucked away on a quiet tiny street just off the canal in Little Venice and next door to my favourite local pub (The Warwick Castle), it’s barely visible unless you know it’s there.

Kateh promises authentic Persian cuisine and ‘service of the highest standard’ in a ‘warm and relaxed’, and I’m happy to say they delivered on all fronts. Though converted from a typical Madia Vale mansion, the restaurant is tiny – only 75 covers – which unfortunately makes it a bit noisy during the dinner rush. We contributed with the ‘Oohs’ and ‘Aahs’ of delight with our meals.

To start, we were brought ‘Persian Olives’:

Great, meaty ‘grow hair on your chest’ olives, is more like it! Absolutely brilliantly paired with a walnut paste, which was more the consistency of a pesto, and a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds for a bit of zesty sweetness.

My starter was the Koofteh Berenji (£ 5.50):

Definitely my favourite dish of the night. Delicious Persian meat balls with a lovely surprise centre of plums. I’ve never had a meatball that melted in my mouth – It was incredible.

The second starter was Tiger Prawns (£8.50):

Although slightly overcooked, the garlic, peppers and slightly citrus-y sauce made it a winner.

On to the mains, and my only complaint is a lack of variety. Each dish in the ‘meat’ section looked strikingly similar. Generally, a skewer of lamb with rice and only a slight difference in how it was prepared.

Mine was the Chenjeh (£ 11.00):

Amazingly tender, which I always consider a feat when grilled on a skewer considering the size of the pieces. The kitchen clearly had a grasp on cooking times. The marinade, with spices I could quite put my finger on, was a perfect balance of rich salty and sweet. However, the saffron rice, as you can see above, was a bit of a cheat being a quarter saffron and three-quarters regular.

The other main was the Koobideh (£ 8.50):

Anything minced and grilled is bound to be a bit more tough, so I’m definitely glad I went with what I did. Still, the spices were spot on.

Desserts were an absolute delight, particularly the Koolouche Roodbar (£ 5.00):

Continuing with the sweet fruit/rich nut theme I found in my starter, we were presented with a warm date and walnut cookie with homemade cinnamon ice-cream, which I can confidently say is the best dessert I’ve had all year. It’s reason enough to make the journey to Maida Vale .

The Persian Saffron Ice Cream (£ 4.00) was also lovely, though it couldn’t hold a candle to the cookies.

As of the date of this post, Kateh has a 100% score from reviewers on Urbanspoon. It deserves it thoroughly. Go, go now.  (Although I almost don’t want to tell you that for fear of it being too busy for me to get in next time.)

Kateh on Urbanspoon

Abu Zaad – Edgware Road

This meal was ages ago, I’ll warn you now, but just because it’s a little outdated (I think June or July?) doesn’t mean I don’t remember it well. First off, it was a very rainy Saturday afternoon where a friend and I were caught on Edgware Road – starved, cranky and without an umbrella. We were fairly miserable.

Popping into the first reasonably priced place we saw (if not just to escape the downpour), we had no idea what treats were in store.

Abu Zaad is the second location of a Shepherd’s Bush Syrian cuisine mainstay. The menu features all the normal things you’d expect of such a restaurant, and it seems that I’m the general consensus is they do it best (See the Telegraph review here).

We started out with hummus, lightly dusted with paprika and drizzled with olive oil.  And while the hummus was mostly creamy, it was also accented with whole chickpeas throughout.  Actually, it reminded me of my favourite store-bought hummus that my ex-flatmate used to only be able to get at the Finchley Road Waitrose. The one that I never remember the name of. I’m sure that helps you a lot.

For my main, I went with the Mixed Grill: Skewers of lamb cubes, chicken cubes and minced lamb.

A bit of a kick, this one… The rice and salad helped to calm what could have been an overly spiced dish. Still, it’s savoury charms didn’t go unnoticed.

My friend went with the Chicken Tagine Chicken Couscous:

I remember being very upset I was only allowed to steal one bite. The aroma was rich and utterly consuming. A great dish.

While there are many many many choices of Syrian, Lebanese and pretty much any Middle Eastern food on Edgware Road, do try Abu Zaad. I can’t promise the décor is anything but austere and diner-like, but the meals are so good, you won’t hardly notice.

Abu Zaad on Urbanspoon