It’s always a challenge to try something outside of your comfort zone but the lure of unique Uzbek national dishes, stunning surroundings and craft cocktails at the newly opened Samarkand was enough to intrigue me. Samarkand is one of the oldest inhabited cities in Central Asia and boasts dishes with rare and exotic flavours.
Uzbek influenced cuisine wasn’t something I was too familiar with, but I was keen to try and experience as much as possible, so we headed to Fitzrovia’s trendiest new hotspot.
The dining room was a lavish underground cave of stunning colours, fabrics and subtle lighting. An open kitchen really added to the lively atmosphere.We were led through to the super snazzy cocktail bar where our experience began. It oozed sophistication. I loved the layout, just above the dining area. I was like a moth to a flame when I spotted the liquor cabinet. It was a beautiful array of glassware containing some unusual infused spirits, which of course meant cocktails.
I’m not great with lengthy menus so I was pleased the bartenders took it upon themselves to make us some surprise drinks. They really were fabulous and went down far too easily. The time and detail that went into each was impressive.
We were shown to our table and introduced to Jay the manager. He talked us through the Samarkand concept, explaining they wanted to create a relaxed upmarket dining experience with truly authentic food. His excitement and passion was infectious which led to many questions and some good stories .
With so much choice on the menu we whittled the starters down to 3 to share.
The somsa came highly recommended. Not to be confused with a samosa. The mini hand-made parcels were made with flaky puff pastry and stuffed with a tasty beef and lamb filling. A delicious strong start.
We also chose the burrata. A huge ball of creamy burrata cheese dominated the pretty plate. The silky smooth texture was gorgeous paired with the heritage tomato salad. Simple yet pleasing.
The manti dish was also a hit at our table. Traditional Uzbek hand-made dumplings bursting with a combination of beef and lamb, they were served with a bright orange spicy sauce. My personal favourite from the 3 plates.
The chunky truffle potato was a great addition, not that we needed it – the Plov was so much bigger than I expected. Perfectly seasoned with great texture.
A traditional achichuk also accompanied the plov. A fresh vibrant bowl of tomatoes, onions and herbs.
Jay then encouraged us to share the national dish of Uzbekistan, plov. A recipe that has been passed down over many generations was fine by me. It consisted of beef short rib slowly cooked together with carrots, onions, chickpeas, berries and rice. The garnish of pomegranate and spring onions just made the dish come alive. The colours were fabulous. The tender tasty meat together with the juices soaking into the rice bowl was just a dream.
The wine list was extensive. We knew we wanted a red so chose a delightful rich chianti to go with our mains.
I’d had a Turkish baklava cake before so knew I would enjoy it however Samarkand put their own unique twist on the dessert. Not only did it come looking pretty as a picture with edible flowers, it was also served in warm milk foam. Really delicious and so filling.
We also had the chocolate texture. Beautifully presented it was a chocoholic’s heaven. Smooth dense mousse was dotted between brownie, crumbled biscuit, berries and rich ice cream. My friend then had a mint tea to finish.
If you fancy something out of the ordinary that really will amaze and delight you, head to Samerkand. It was impossible to leave without giving them the highest of praise. The attention to detail was impeccable and the service, friendly yet professional. A real hidden gem worth seeking out.
33 Charlotte Street, London, W1T 3RR