The Gist: Middle Eastern home-cooked affair with modern twists
The Chefs: Jeremy Borrow and Marwa Alkhalaf
Location: 30 St Martin's Lane, Charing Cross, London WC2N 4ER
Food in 5 words: Boldly going beyond the kebab
See more: nutshelllondon.co.uk
How did we get here?
In a nutshell, Nutshell is an authentic, modern Iranian restaurant coming to Covent Garden at the end of July. Spread over two floors and with 86 covers, it will showcase the expansive Middle Eastern cuisine (and its lesser known depths) through modernised sharing plates.
Originally trialled via a pop-up by ex-Noma chef Leonardo Pereira in London last year, the former head chef of The Palomar, Jeremy Borrow, is tagging in for the bricks-and-mortar debut, teaming up with husband-wife duo Marwa Alkhalaf and Mohammad Paknejad to execute a menu full of traditional Iranian recipes combined with contemporary flair.
Along with Borrow’s experience with Middle Eastern cuisine in Soho, Alkhalaf was formerly a chef at two-Michelin-starred Mayfair restaurant The Greenhouse, with the owners looking to celebrate “a cuisine beyond the beloved kebab,” drawing upon “recipes that had been handed down through generations and rarely make it into restaurants, in or out of Iran.”
The space, which was designed by the team behind Lyle’s and Gymkhana, will also feature an open kitchen, space for counter dining and a semi-private dining area on the first floor for “a true Iranian feasting experience.”
What’s different about it?
Nutshell highlights Iranian home cooking, with the owners claiming that “some of the most interesting and unique aspects of Iranian cuisine are found in the homes of Iranians, rather than the bustling restaurants of Tehran.”
The menu is broken up into five different sections – Nashta, Mezze, Stove, Grill and Rice – with traditional brining, pickling, drying and fermentation methods found throughout.
Even the bread sounds novel: sangak is a kind of whole-wheat leavened flatbread that is traditionally baked upon pebbles to give it distinctive indentations.
Vegetables will feature heavily and authentic stews will play their part, including adasi (a Persian lentil stew), cauliflower fesenjan (a take on a Persian walnut and pomegranate stew) and khoresh bademjan (an eggplant and tomato stew).
Meat eaters will be drawn to the joosh pareh (beef dumplings cooked in a chickpea and sour cherry broth), while seafood aficionados can chomp down on grilled octopus with sabzi (fresh herbs) salsa and butterbeans.
Tahdig (the crust of cooked rice) also makes an appearance.
You’ve got to try…
Those with an inclination towards the spicy should try the ghalieh mahi, a southern Iranian fish stew with tamarind and chilli. Those without such an inclination should dovetail the stew with mast-o-khiar, a Persian yoghurt and cucumber side dish, to put out the flames.
Sparkie also likes…
The jojeh kebab with saffron, lemon and yoghurt, a wildly popular chicken dish in Iran and Nutshell’s only take on the kebab – this is an Iranian restaurant in England, after all.
You like your mum’s cooking and want to experience the Iranian equivalent.