There are many establishments on Queensway, but the one that really stands out is Little Persia. The entrance to the restaurant is a little tented area, where people sit sheltered from all the elements cheerfully puffing on hookah pipes. Dainty blue fairy lights hang precariously from the ceiling and large brass trays serve as tables.
The inside is equally impressive. The restaurant is decorated with a Persian theme with ornate handmade threaded table cloths, silky cushions and beautiful lantern-like light fixtures – it feels like an authentic experience. The venue also has two private rooms, stunningly decorated, with Persian horses carved into the wall and many marble sculptures.
Seductive aromas fill the room as you are led to your table. When scoping the menu, and if you are unfamiliar with the dishes, the staff will help you choose food that will be to your taste. The aim of the dishes is to provide a snippet of the cuisine Persian families would have. A great way to get a feel for the menu is to start with the mixed starter (£13.50) which includes hummous, Salad Olivieh, Mast-O-Mouseer (Persian yoghurt), Kashke Bademjam andMirza Ghassemi, all served with fresh bread, baked on the premises. The Salad Olivieh is a traditional Persian dip which has chicken, garlic, carrots and Persian mayonnaise. The meat is tender and the mayonnaise is significantly lighter with more depth than the mayo we are used to. The Kashke Bademjam is a smoked aubergine dip – The aubergine is soft with delicate spices, making it very moreish. Mirza Ghassemi is another aubergine delight with fried mint on top. This time the vegetable has a fuller flavour making it arguably the best of the bunch.
In between courses, the cocktails are definitely worth an investigation. The passion fruit martini is very fresh and tastes like fruit juice, so be careful or you’ll soon be a bit tipsy. It is refreshing and very well made as is their take on a Mojito, The Marrakech. They describe it as an oriental Mojito and it is very colourful – red with chunky pieces of lemon and lime at the bottom. Sprinkled with lots of mint, it’s a great drink to mull over while waiting for your main course.
The mixed grill for two (£34) best demonstrates the quality of the menu. There are five skewers of meat, each one as delicious as the other, with two plates of rice and a side salad. The meat is marinated overnight, with lots of saffron, allowing the ingredients to infuse, and then grilled on the BBQ making it quite a healthy choice. There are two skewers of minced lamb, lamb pieces, chicken breast and baby chicken on the bone. The knife glides through the meat with ease, the juices flowing out. The minced lamb is soft and very succulent and with all the meats, every bite brings a new dimension of the wonderful marinade.
If you manage to fit in dessert, which will be difficult as the food is very filling, Faloodeh(£3.50) is a different sort of sweet. It has chewy Persian noodles immersed in a lemon/lime sorbet and is a sweet and sour sensation, with strawberries softening the dish. It’s a bizarre combination, but works ever so well. Bastani (£3.50) is a Persian ice-cream made with pistachio and saffron. It’s really creamy and the ultimate comfort food.
At first Little Persia may just seem like another theme restaurant, but once you sit down and taste the food, you realise it’s not a one trick pony. The food is good quality, carefully and freshly prepared and cooked with great expertise. They want you to experience the true Persian cuisine and they certainly deliver. So, if you are wandering along Queensway trying to decide where to eat, Little Persia should definitely be your first port of call.