My love for Persian food comes from my “brutha from anutha mutha” Ali, who was born in Iran. You can imagine my delight when I heard My Persian Kitchen were planning to bring their traditional fare to Cambridge through their new pop up and shared dining experience concept. In fact, the duo behind My Persian Kitchen, Sirous V Naderi and Abigail Plet, are no strangers to pop ups. You may remember them as Workshop Kitchen specialising in French and Italian cuisine, in which Sirous trained professionally. However, it is through Sirous’ grandmother and mother that he developed his passion for Persian cooking.
Cambridge was definitely ready for something new and exciting. Their pop up at Espresso Library on Saturday, 22 October completely sold out! Attendees ranged from newbies intrigued by the menu to Persians who were proud to introduce this cuisine to their friends.
Persian cuisine is exquisite and varied so there’s a lot I haven’t explored yet. My Persian Kitchen’s three-course menu included dishes steeped in tradition, made with quality ingredients. The menu wasn’t fussy or complicated but it was a great idea to have a description of the dishes printed in the back of the menu, as well as a brief history of Iran. Reading all about the dishes really helped set the tone for the evening whilst we waited for the food to be served.
The ambience was welcoming and relaxed, with dimmed lights, flickering candles and a lovely jazz soundtrack. Espresso Library have a nice drinks menu so Paulo and I shared a bottle of Belstar Prosecco to go with our meal.
Low lighting meant that my photos weren’t the best but it’s the flavours that matter so I hope my readers will focus on the descriptive rather than the visual. The starters consisted of two dips (one with spinach, the other with aubergine), accompanied by generous portions of Iranian flatbread and Persian mixed vegetables (Torshi Shoor). They were tangy and sour, exactly how they are supposed to be. I had similar in Bulgaria earlier this year and it was interesting to learn that many Balkan and Middle Eastern countries share the same tastes. It is said that no Persian meal is complete without a bowl of Torshi Shoor on the table.
We really enjoyed the starters (the photo above is a serving for 2 people).The first starter (Borani Esfanaj) was a dip consisting of steamed spinach mixed with thick strained handmade yogurt. Its pungent garlic flavour was spot on. Garlic can sometimes overpower a dish but not in this case. The other dip (Kashk-e-Bademjan) featured sautéed aubergine, walnuts, garlic, whey and mint. I loved the soft, smoky flavours of the aubergines. Both of these dips were scooped up with delicious flatbread.
The main courses offered a choice of meat or vegetarian (veggie option had to be pre-ordered). I went for the lamb but the vegetarian main was Khoresh-e-Bamieh, a tangy and flavourful stew made with tender okra in a tomato sauce, served with steamed saffron rice. I will have to try that another time! Paulo and I both chose the Khoresh-e-Gheymeh Sibzamini, a succulent lamb stew with split yellow peas and dried limes cooked in a tomato sauce and topped with sliced potato chips (french fries), served on a bed of steamed saffron rice, which is a staple in Persian cuisine.
Sides included a bowl of pickled vegetables, different this time, but still packing that tasty punch that goes so well with rich, meaty dishes.
The salad with adas lentils, quinoa and tomatoes with lemon and sumac dressing was full of fresh, vibrant flavours that also provided a contrasting tang to the lamb stew.
Dessert was Persian vanilla & saffron ice cream (Bastani) with a sliced log-shaped delight covered in pistachios, all of it topped with fragrant edible rose petals. It was just gorgeous!
We were given a little treat to take home: a bag filled with delightful Persian cookies (Shirini) featuring a jammy dodger-ish cookie with raspberry jam and pistachios as well as a heart-shaped shortbread cookie topped with a whole pistachio. It has been reported that cookies have their origins in 7th century AD Persia, so Persians definitely know what they are doing. I’m fascinated by all of the different types of Persian cookies out there. I will have to do some more research (and tasting)!
My Persian Kitchen’s menu took us on an appetising journey to Iran filled with tasty, traditional ingredients and the discovery of new flavour combinations. The Farsi translation of bon appétit is nusheh joon, which literally means “may your soul be replenished”. With a happy belly and delighted taste buds, it was indeed!
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My Persian Kitchen and Espresso Library were unaware that my experience would be the basis of a written review. It is based on my experience at my own cost and I did not receive compensation for my review.
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