Dish With A Difference

We’re talking about: Iranian street food

Inspired by Tehrani street vendors, new restaurant Berenjak will reinterpret the culture's signature dishes using seasonal British produce.

30 July 2018
meatmenumiddle easternrestaurantsseasonalstreet food
  • The Dish: The Jigar kabab, with lamb’s liver, bergamot and lavash
  • The Place:  Berenjak coming in October 2018 on Romilly Street, Soho
  • The Chef: Kian Samyani

What? Reinterpreting the classic hole-in-the-wall kabab houses lining the streets of Tehran, new restaurant Berenjak comes from Iranian chef Kian Samyani. It’s inspired by his childhood spent gathering around the dining table with his family, as well as his experience cooking in the kitchens of Gymkhana and Brigadiers.

Samyani will draw on his heritage to evoke the style of a rustic Persian kabab house, reinterpreting signature dishes using seasonal British produce.

“Most of my memories of growing up revolve around food, and in an Iranian family, the dishes of my parents’ homeland were always present on the dinner table,” said Samyani. “Spices, cooling dips and handfuls of herbs are the flavours of my childhood, so it’s great to be reinterpreting them in Soho. For me, it wouldn’t be an Iranian dinner without sitting elbow-to-elbow with friends and family, sharing each dish until every scrap has gone – I’m looking forward to recreating that at Berenjak.”

The menu will include traditional kababs on freshly baked breads hot from the tanoor, inspired by Tehrani street vendors.

Each kabab is threaded onto a skewer before being thrown on the fiery charcoal mangal to grill. One of the highlights is the Jigar kabab with lamb’s liver, bergamot and lavash (flatbread), accompanied by a selection of koobideh (a tender minced meat dish that’s a staple at every kabab house).

Come game season, guests can expect to see spiced partridge and pheasant make an appearance on the grill. It's a further sign that game meat could be creeping further into British eats, as Food Spark has previously reported on a push to reposition the less popular birds as ready meals in supermarkets. (Indian Accent's Manish Mehrotra has also expressed interest in adding it to his menu).

Where? Coming this October to Soho’s Ramilly Street, Berenjak is named for the handfuls of brightly coloured, toasted rice eaten as a snack at funfairs in Iran.

Samyani will be supported by Karam, Jyo and Sunaina Sethi – the family behind some of London’s top restaurants, including Bao, Hoppers, Lyle’s and Sabor.

When guests come to the restaurant, they will duck through the metal shopfront and be greeted by an open kitchen, giving a full view of the chefs manning the flaming tanoor, mangal barbecue and doner rotisserie – all the traditional tools of the Iranian chef.

Inside, exposed brick walls and polished concrete contrast with stained glass windows and the richly hued Persian carpets lining the floors.

A living wall also allows drinkers to pick and choose fresh herbs to pair with their choice of Persian drink.

On the menu are small bowls of traditional khoresht, a Persian-style stew, including khoresht e karak (whole quail with aromatic barberries, saffron and lemon) and ghormeh sabzi (slow-cooked lamb shank with fenugreek, dried lime and kidney beans).

Why? Street food’s popularity sees no sign of abating and it seems that it’s the gateway to introducing new cuisines into the UK as Samyani takes inspiration from Iran’s street vendors. In fact, MCA data showed that the UK street food market will reach an estimated total value of £1.2bn in 2018, increasing by 9.1% from 2017.

While the signature dishes are quite meat heavy, the restaurant also has the plant-based eaters covered with traditional dishes too.

Diners can kick off with mazeh, an assortment of punchy small plates including kashk e bademjoon (blackened aubergine with whey, walnuts and dried mint) and ash-e reshteh (an Azerbaijani bean and noodle soup).

Side dishes include kahoo sekanjabin (cos lettuce hearts with oxymel, a honey and vinegar mix used as a remedy), khiar ba daraar (baby cucumbers with fermented mint) and torshi, a traditional family recipe of brined and pickled vegetables.

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