Everyone always makes fun of British food. They laugh about boiled beef and vegetables. Ha ha ha. Like that is all the Brits can cook. Don’t forget fish and chips with mushy peas. (Do forget the mint in the peas. Please forget it. I beg you. God, I hate that mint.) And don’t forget the sticky toffee pudding, which, by the way, bears no resemblance to the Jello pudding I grew up loving. That’s a good thing. A very good thing.
So last night, I think I realized why the British really don’t have a cuisine to call their own. They don’t need one. Foodwise, the world is their oyster. They just pick and choose from the best the world has to offer and in London, the world is offering A LOT. Earlier this week, we were strolling through Holland Park and happened upon a little Persian restaurant called Hafez. We walked in and picked up a menu, and the rest was dining history. Seriously, it was a meal to remember.
I cannot even begin to tell you about the food until I tell you about the fabulous space. It was small and not really fancy, but whoever helped with the upfitting was genius. Check out the books in the frame pictured above and the ceiling pictured below. My photos probably don’t do it justice. They used chair legs for sconces and for door handles. I know it sounds weird, but it looked very cool.
Ordering was a challenge since we can’t recall ever ordering in a Persian restaurant. We’ve never even been in a Persian restaurant. Luckily, descriptions were in English and the server was helpful, so we just plunged right in. We ordered Baba Ghanoush, Salad-e Olivieh, Mast-o Khiar, Barreh, aand Kubideh. Makes sense, right? You would have done the same, right? Well, goes to show how smart you are! Here’s what would have appeared right before your eyes.
Honestly, we had no idea that chicken could taste so good. The lamb, I assure you, did not die in vain. It was incredible, as was the ground lamb. The ground lamb was seasoned and seemed to be a kind of sausage, so you know it was well received at our table. The Salad-e Olivieh was “finely diced chicken blended with eggs, mashed potato, gherkins, olive oil, and mayonnaise.” Basically, it was chunky cold mashed potatoes with shredded chicken. You think that sounds horrible, don’t you? Well, it was incredible. Rick piled it on his Persian bread and loved it. The Baba Ghanoush was the only dish that was familiar to us, and it was the best I have ever tasted. I don’t want to bang on and on about this restaurant although I could.
One of the really fun aspects of our time here in the UK has been the diversity of cuisines we have been able to explore. From Jamie Oliver’s Fabulous Fish Pie that we made twice here in our kitchen to last night’s foray into Persian cuisine, it has been quite an experience. From now on, when people make that catty remark that “the British aren’t known for their cuisine,” we will just smile and think of all the wondrous meals we’ve had here. Not one bite of boiled beef or vegetables, but fine food originating in India, France, Italy, Asia, and Persia, to mention just a few of the globe spanning cuisines readily available in any London borough.