TANDIS: SPITTING DISTANCE FROM BELSIZE PARK
I am usually slightly uneasy going to restaurants that offer Persian cuisine.
It’s not that I don’t like the food, I really do. In fact I believe that the countries of the Middle East offer up some of the most interesting cuisines of the world. There are two reasons I take pause. One is that whenever I try to pronounce the names of the dishes I invariably end up covering my dining companion in a shower of spittle and one that often incorporates a large amount of flat bread. The other is that no matter how polite and friendly they are being, the owners and waiters in these restaurants always come across as being slightly miffed and, quite frankly I am a bit of a fraidy cat.
So, when the owner of Tandis in Belsize Park announced “I am not taking your order until you say them properly” I did not know if he was joking or not and I was not surprised when my dining companion Petra raised up her menu to protect her from the inevitable drenching of phlegm.
She had been a good sport so far, trudging all the way up to North London after I turned down the kind offer of discount sushi in Clapham and was even more of a good sport as she saved me from further embarrassment by making a rather good stab at pronouncing the names of the dishes herself.
Tandis, halfway up Haverstock Hill, has been open for about five months and its air-conditioned room was a welcome relief from the muggy conditions outside. The service too was welcoming despite the deadpan faced request to try out our Arabic (or is that Persian?). It was also beguilingly honest turning down our request to share three main courses with a stern shake of the head and a declaration that “you wont get close to finishing it”
We took his advice and ordered a starter of Masto Moosir (duck everyone) a refreshing dip of strained yoghurt with shallots that we scooped up with hot flat bread as we caught up.
When the main courses arrived, we could see why he had been so insistent. Baghali Polo Ba Maahicheh (excuse me while I wipe the screen) was a sizable chunk of lamb shank with a large pile of rice mixed with lots of butter, fresh dill and broad beans. Zereshk Polo Ba Morgh (and again with the screen wipe) was another sizable mound of rice, this time flecked with saffron and covered in sour barberries.
Both dishes were delicious. The lamb fell off the bone at the first touch of a fork and the second pile of rice gave way to reveal large amounts of chicken which had been cooked slowly in more saffron. The rice in both dishes was buttery but the dill and broad beans gave an added element to the first dish while the barberries cleared the palette for the second. Even with us reigning back on our ordering, it was too much to finish and Petra requested a doggy bag for the remaining rice.
The bill, with something to drink, came to about £20 a head, standard for a neighbourhood restaurant and good value for one that serves very decent food in pleasant surroundings.
After supper, we decided to walk down to Marine Ices to have an ice cream for pudding forgetting that it was closed on Monday evenings. A great shame, not just because ice cream would have been perfect on a balmy evening like this but, more so because I don’t spit on anyone when I order a strawberry cone. Really I don't