Murray Blake

London food and coffee writer


Leave a comment

The Begging Bowl & Mohsen

The Begging Bowl
168 Bellenden Rd, Peckham, SE15 4BW
Nearest tube: Peckham Rye
020 7635 2627
Click to add a blog post for The Begging Bowl on Zomato
website; map

“Its signature dish was a great big mulch centred on a banana leaf. I don’t think I’m being unfair when I say it looked about as appetising as a stewed triffid. It was hair-raisingly good.” Zoe Williams, The Telegraph

IMG

The Begging Bowl opened in 2012 and was one of the first new wave restaurants to arrive in Peckham’s Bellenden road.  Head chef and co-owner Jane Alty hails from New Zealand and learnt her trade in some of London’s best kitchens, including Galvin at Windows and Bibendum.  A stint travelling through Asia led her to fall in love with Thai food and when she returned to London she joined the team at David Thompson’s Thai trailblazer, Nahm, spending over three years there including a spell working in Bangkok.  Alty’s food isn’t traditionally Thai and has more of a street food slant to it.  The Begging Bowl has an odd menu set-up: four circular symbols in different colours at the top suggest portion size and prices (ranging from small at £6.25 to large at £14.50), which I think is a bit naff.

IMG_2455

Our first dish was disappointing – grilled aubergine salad with minced prawns and a duck egg (£8.25).  The egg was served cold and hard-boiled, the aubergine was also cold and under-seasoned; the prawns were unremarkable. Much better was the grilled baby squid with homemade chilli oil (£6.25) – the squid was cooked perfectly, it was light, soft and not at all chewy; the spicing was spot on.

IMG_2458

Having read some good write-ups of the Rabbit green curry (£12) I was keen to try this (Alty makes her own curry paste) – it contained both apple and pea aubergines and some sharply flavoured Thai basil.  The sauce was thin and the homemade paste was lost in a sea of coconut milk.  There was a scanty amount of meat: it was overcooked and slightly rubbery.  On a positive note, the vegetables were cooked perfectly and the medium-hot spicing had just the right amount of chilli kick.  More pleasing was the stone bass and cockles in coconut curry (£12) – the large chunks of bass were meaty and cooked so that the flesh was still firm.  The light but slightly spicy sauce brought some interest to the fish which isn’t especially packed with flavour.

Verdict: a disappointment 5/10

Mohsen
152 Warwick Rd, W14 8PS
Nearest tube: Earl’s Court
020 7603 9888
Click to add a blog post for Mohsen on Zomato
map

“…..prices are low for this part of west London, the service is extremely friendly and the café-like decor offers a laid-back alternative to some of the capital’s more showy Persian restaurants.” Time Out

IMG_2512

Mohsen is a decade old Persian restaurant on Warwick Road, a short walk from Earl’s Court tube.  The interior has been recently made over and is rustic, with rural Iranian artwork on the walls and simple furnishings.  I have read about brusque and inattentive service in many reviews (eg see Andy Hayler) but I won’t be able to comment as I visited with my Persian friend who spoke to the staff in Farsi and we received excellent service.  The highlight of the meal was the wonderful Persian naan which is made to order using a traditional oven sitting in the window of the restaurant – this is a thin and slightly crispy naan, laden with sesame seeds and was wonderful straight from the oven.  We opted for a simple yoghurt and shallot dip which was light and fresh, working well with the bread.

IMG_2516

We shared ox tongue (£5) as a starter which was served in a white sauce enhanced with some turmeric and a hint of saffron – the tongue melted in the mouth and had a mild, beef-like flavour.  The sauce was pleasant enough but there was too much of it.  For main course I had Koresh Badjeman (braised lamb and aubergine £10) with rice – the aubergine was sweet, not at all bitter or greasy.  The morsels of lamb could have been cut with a spoon and the tomato based sauce was nicely seasoned and (of course) had a hint of saffron.

IMG_2522

We finished with some saffron ice cream which was certainly homemade (and contained the odd ice crystal) but that I still really enjoyed.  They don’t have an alcohol licence but you can bring your own bottle (there is no corkage charge); they also don’t accept debit or credit cards.

Verdict: authentic Persian food at bargain prices 6.5/10

 

Advertisements


Leave a comment

More reviews

Eat Tokyo
169 King St, W6 9JT
Nearest tube: Ravenscourt Park
020 8741 7916
Eat Tokyo on Urbanspoon
website; map

IMG_0002

Eat Tokyo is a London mini-chain of sushi restaurants with 5 branches around central, north and west London.  The small and unassuming Hammersmith branch was already reassuringly full by 6pm, and the clientele seemed to include quite a few Japanese couples and families.  The bible-like menu is replete with glossy photographs of every option and it is hard not to be overwhelmed by the immense array of dishes.  The pricing is very reasonable and because the range of prices is quite tight I think you will get better value from premium dishes like turbot nigri (£4.8) rather than more standard options like mackerel (£3.2) or prawn (£3.8).  Flummoxed by the range of choices we opted for a sashimi set and prawn tempura.  The sashimi was generally good, highlights being the light, fresh and neatly prepared mackerel and the fatty, silky salmon.  I was unimpressed by the (reconstituted) crab claw and octopus which were plasticy and tasteless.  Tuna and a white fish (possibly bream or sea bass) were decent and definitely fresh, although they were slightly clumsily prepared.  The prawn used in the prawn tempura was meaty and mild, the batter light and crispy – a simple but tasty side dish.

Verdict: a safe and fair value sushi option 6/10

IMG_1448

Patogh
8 Crawford Pl, W1H 5NE
Nearest tube: Edgware Road
020 72624015
Patogh on Urbanspoon
map

Patogh is a little Persian restaurant just off the Edgware road.  The cave-like interior has been sloppily decorated to evoke a Persian peasant’s house, with strange agricultural instruments hanging on the wall and chunky wooden furniture.  But, thankfully people do not come here for the ambience or décor, they are famous for their kebabs, grilled meats and Persian bread.  We started with a very, very big bread (£4) and a range of dips and pickles (£3-3.5).

IMG_0676

The bread was fantastic – its exterior was crispy and the inside soft but nicely chewy, it was thinner than a typical naan bread, replete with sesame and poppy seeds, and was perfect for dipping in yoghurt or even just eating on its own.  Our dips were less remarkable – the pickles tasted like they had come in a jar from a cash and carry, the cucumber yoghurt was fresh but underseasoned and the houmous needed more garlic.  Mains range from £6-9 and are either lamb or chicken-based, with an okra stew for the veggies and a whole grilled seabass for any pescetarians (though I wouldn’t vouch for the provenance of the fish at £12).  I opted for the lamb pieces with white rice – the lamb (possibly loin) had been marinated, skewered on a kebab and then grilled.

IMG_0683

The lamb was wonderful – I think it had been marinated in olive oil with garlic and mint which lended some complexity to the meat; it was nicely charred giving texture and extra flavour.  I think you will struggle to find a better kebab in London.

Verdict: simple, rustic but great value Persian food (though not a recommended location for a first date!) 8/10

Wagamama Southbank
Riverside level, Royal festival hall, SE1 8XX
Nearest tube:
0207 021 0877
Wagamama on Urbanspoon
website; map

IMG_0001

Wagamma was one of the first ventures of Alan Yau, the restauranteur behind Michelin-starred Hakkasan and Yauatcha. The first branch opened in London in 1992 and now they have over 100 restaurants across the world, including franchise outposts in Boston, the UAE, Qatar and Australia.  I went along to the Southbank restaurant which is a large, bustling space that I would guess seats over 100.  Most of you will be familiar with the menu which is split into ramen, noodles, curries and salads.  I opted for the classic chicken katsu curry (£9.75) – breaded chicken strips and rice smothered in a mild curry sauce.  The quality of the chicken was reasonable but it had been overcooked and was rather dry.  The rice had been prepared in a massive rice cooker and was near to perfection, with a nice firm texture.  The curry sauce was definitely pre-prepared – it was bland, stale and needed more spice; the side salad had seen better days.

Verdict: Wagamma is fine for a quick and simple bite to eat but they need to improve the quality of their ingredients 4/10

IMG_0646

 


2 Comments

Hafez Persian Restaurant

5 Hereford Road, W2 4AB
Dinner for two with drinks and service: around £50
0207 2213167
www.hafezrestaurant.co.uk/
Hafez Persian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

A sizeable chunk of the Persian upper classes fled to Kensington after the revolution of 1979 and it still sports a sizeable Iranian community, with quite a few Iranian restaurants in the area.  My Persian friend Meysam has been to most of these restaurants, and has taken me to the wonderful Mohsen many times, but I was keen to try somewhere different.  Hafez is a tiny restaurant with only 10 tables and very unusual decor – a range of antique spoons clutter the walls and a teacup sculpture doubles as a lampshade.  The service seems typical of London Persian restaurants – it could never be described as friendly but is generally efficient.

I started with a swig of Persian saffron beer (£3.90 – brewed in the UK), which was really interesting, with a strong (but not unpleasant) saffron aftertaste.  Iranian starters generally consist of bread and dips; the Hafez menu is no exception: we tried Mirza Ghasemi (£4.50) and Mast-o Mousir (£3.50), which are both aubergine based – one with garlic, the other saffron.  The bread was light with a crisp outer layer and was certainly freshly made (though unfortunately it was not quite as good as at Mohsen, which has a clay oven in the dining room and the bread is made before your very eyes).

Kebabs and stews are the mainstays of Persian cuisine and Hafez offers numerous versions of these.  The highlight of our kebab platter (£28) was the chicken which was perfectly cooked and extremely succulent; the lamb chops were made of good quality meat and were nicely moist; however, unfortunately our lamp chops were a bit overdone.  These meats were all served without sauce or strong seasoning, allowing the natural flavours to dominate.  I am a great fan of the stews made by my Persian friend, so I think it would be hard for me to praise any restaurant offering, but even considering this, I was disappointed with the lamb stews we ordered (Ghormeh Sabzi £9.50 and Gheimeh £9.50).  The meat was melt in the mouth but the flavour was listless and unblanced: dried limes dominating the former and saffron the latter.

Our saffron ice cream (another Persian staple) was certainly homemade but the texture was not perfect, with quite a few ice crystals lending an unpleasant crunch.

Verdict

If you want to try Persian food then Hafez is not a bad option, but I think that the food at Mohsen is far better.

Food 2/5
Atmosphere 3/5
Service 1/5
Value 3/5

Also see: Best Iranian Restaurants in London, Zagat.