Sunday, 8 May 2011
Foodie hot spot (pah!) Archway is just down the road from my digs so it warms my heart to see any venue based there reaping praise from the big guns for the quality and good value of their offerings. Late last year Time Out gave Gilak, a small Northern Iranian restaurant, the nod by way of inclusion in their Best Cheap Eats in North London and they've more recently followed up with a further glowing review
Many have raved about the starter dips, in particular the aubergine based ones so for our first course we opted for the boorani-e-aubergine (smoked and mixed with garlic and yogurt) and boorani-e-esfenaj (yogurt with spinach and garlic) with some flatbreads for scooping.
The aubergine was as good as expected though we didn't detect much spinach in the 2nd dip. The flatbreads were great, though we were less sure about the sir torshi, pickled garlic (pictured top of post). They're very bitter and something of an acquired taste.
Moving on to mains the menu is broken down into Persian stews and Persian grills. I opted for khoresht anarbij. The picture really doesn't do this dish justice, it was fantastic. A stew of lamb meatballs in a walnut, onion and sour pomegranate sauce, I've never tasted anything like it before and absolutely loved it. Very earthy and grainy, I've thought about this dish a lot since the meal and would struggle to return and order anything else. It was served alongside an enormous plateful of rice, plain and saffron, beautifully golden grains scattered atop the fluffy white pile.
I was pleased when my companion ordered chellow kabab momtaz from the grill section giving me a chance to sample the marinated chicken and minced lamb skewers. This dish was really pretty, the vibrant yellow marinade, from the saffron, giving the chicken that golden hue. Again the flavours here were quite unfamiliar to me and this was a really unusual dining experience, in a good way. The meat was all so succulent and the portion size very generous, the place was full with a varied and eclectic bunch of diners, families with children, couples, groups of friends, I see why Gilak's earned the reputation as a bit of a local gem.
I couldn't resist the bastani, Persian ice cream with saffron and pistachios. Once again my taste buds were completely unprepared for the flavours, the saffron is very strong, almost perfumed but quite savoury. The pistachios adding crunch to the creaminess, the dish was perfect with some Persian tea sweetened with plenty of sugar.
For all this we paid less than £40 and we left happy and very full. I would very much recommend visiting, even if it's slightly further than you would normally trek, it's really close to Archway tube station.
663 Holloway Rd,