When you hear the word Iran, the last thing you probably associate Iran with is food. But let me tell you that Persian cuisine has come a long way from what is was 5 years ago. The Guardian claims that there are probably more Persian restaurants in London than any western city in the world. But with so many to choose from, and with lots of restaurants claiming to serve Iranian food, how can you get a taste of the real Persia?
Ever since Sabrina Ghayour graced our TV screens on Saturday Kitchen and bookshelves with her cookbook Persiana, London (including myself) has been hooked on re-creating colourful and tasty Iranian dishes at home. But as it was date night, I was on the lookout for an authentic restaurants that dished up the Persian food that my Iranian friend’s mum use to make when I came across Banu.
A short walk from Gloucester Road, sits Banu, located inside The Cranley Hotel – a Victorian townhouse boutique hotel. Banu has added a twist to the traditional Iranian dishes and made it more suitable for the health conscious all while not losing the taste and texture of the dishes.
Inside Banu, you can’t help sit still and be amazed by the beautiful Victorian decor. Little touches like the glistering chandeliers, velvet curtains, Persian carpets and boutique style furniture makes you feel like you are home away from home.
Taken to our seats, we looked at the mouth watering menu and prepared for a feast. We wanted to start with the best of Iranian cuisine so ordered the Iranian mezze. This contained creamy and rich hummus that was velvety to the tongue. Next was the moorish mast-o-khair which was a cucumber and yogurt dip with a light hint of roasted garlic. Next came one of my favourites starters, the kashk-e bademjan which was roasted aubergine in garlic, olive oil and parley. Next we moved onto two types of egg dishes – one finely chopped with aubergine which was simply divine and the last in a rich tomato sauce.
The starters came accompanied with Taftoun – a thin and crispy Persian flatbread that had sesame seeds on top. It was the perfect accompany with the delicious mezze platter and definitely helped with scooping the last remaining bits.
Being a massive frittata fan, I wanted to try the traditional Kubu Sabzi. This was a Persian baked frittata with eggs, Persian herbs, parsley, coriander and chives. It was moorish and I couldn’t get enough of it. The egg was soft and creamy but the herbs took the dish to another level.
Whilst we soaked up the sunshine and warm air from the summer breeze, our mains came hot and ready for us to tuck into. It was a feast for sore eyes. On our table laid three types of Persian rice dishes and a selection of meats. We couldn’t wait to get started.
The first rice dish was perfectly looked rice with dried barberry scattered on the top. The rice was cooked al dente and the pistachios on the top gave it a nice crunch.
The second rice dish was a rich textured dish with yet again, perfectly cooked rice and packed with broadbeans and dill to give it a herby flavour.
My third, most favourite and final rice dish was the green beans and tomato with delicate saffron rice. Simply divine!
To accompany our trio of amazing rice dishes we had the popular zereshk polo which was chicken cooked in a tomato and saffron sauce topped with wild barberries, crushed pistachios and almond. The chicken was succulent, moist and feel off the bone. The sauce was rice and creamy and worked well with the rice dishes, especially the barberry rice which had a nice sweet and sour contrast together.
The next Persian meat dish is the most famous one around – the ghafghazi. This was a skewer of chicken fillet that has been chargrilled with peppers and onions. This was amazing. The chicken was so succulent with spices that was subtle but had a nice aftertaste. It worked well with the rice dishes, especially when also scooping some tomato chutney as well.
When we thought that things couldn’t get any better, we were presented with a trio of desserts – chocolate brownies that was soft and creamy, warm carrot cake with a pistachio coating and raspberry and rose macarons. All delicious and small enough to not make you feel guilty afterwards.
Banu is one of those places you come to not only for a feel good factor of the plush setting and decor, but most importantly to taste some premium Persian food. Even though located in a boutique hotel, I prefer this is the hustle and bustle of a busy restaurant, as the food is cooked to perfection and the waitress have your full undivided attention. What more could you want?
Get down to Banu now and forget about those late night kebabs – this is what you should be feasting on!
Banu at the Cranley Hotel
10 Bina Gardens, London, SW5 0LA