Everyone has one of those lists of classic fail-safe restaurants that is turned to when in need. Mine seems to be exceptionally long and I tend to have moments where I will visit the same restaurant more than five times in a month; I can’t help it – once my trust has been earned, I’m the number one fan. However, when that restaurant then all of a sudden turns against you after a bad experience, you fight not to, but end up having to cross it off your list to never look back at again.
This happened with Alounak – an absolute old time favourite of mine! The restaurant reigned as the “King of all Persian restaurants in London” for all my years growing up until Valentines day, of all days, when the food and service was so poor that it caused Alounak to get crossed off my list! I tried different Persian restaurants ,but none of them impressed me like Alounak had once before.
Months later, BW, a regular at Alounak, hinted that we pay a visit to the restaurant just so I wouldn’t lose complete hope in the place. I reluctantly agreed and one evening, before the food rush hour, we grabbed a table. I was anxious to see if Alounak still had it and we proceeded with our order.
Feta cheese, turnips, walnuts, mint & tarragon; what on earth was this dish? Is it a salad or an ‘actual’ appetiser, which I still do not know. BW insisted I try this leafy dish. I had no clue what he wanted me to do or how to go about eating this until he showed me his version, which probably isn’t correct, but made sense and tasted good to me. First of all, you grab your bread and smoosh the cheese, walnut and green leaves in together. Then last of all take a bite and let the nutty, cheesy and creamy flavours envelope you into perfect serenity.
For those that are unaware, this is yoghurt mixed in with cucumbers and mint. Its best eaten with the hot and crispy house bread or, even better, with the main meal that you order.
Chelo-Kabab Chenjeh & Koobideh
The first thing I did when my plate arrived was to grab a slab of butter and smother my rice in it – how can you not! I then proceeded to take a bite – Oh yes, Alounak definitely still had it. My lamb kofte was soft and juicy with a slight garlicky kick to it. My shish was easy to cut through when hot, but still managed to remain juicy and have the same effect once cold. There was no chewiness in any of the mouthfuls I had taken, which only shows that the meat was perfectly cooked – not under or over done.
The chicken shish chunks were soft and so well cooked that when you took a bite, you could feel the chicken juices oozing out. BW did the traditional butter practice and then did something different; he sprinkled some sort of red powder all over his rice. I never understood why one would use red chilli powder on rice when you can always ask for chilli sauce to add on the side. I looked on in awe and confusion, plus jealousy, until he noticed and allowed me to have a (small) bite of this magical powder and rice combination. This mysterious red dust was amazing and consisted of different spices to help add even more flavour rather than spice to the meat and rice. After much research, BW informed me that this red dust was pomegranate powder and is known as somouk.
I left feeling warm and fuzzy inside. This was my sort of comfort food – hot melted butter on soft fluffy saffron rice with meaty chunks of heaven. Alounak’s name was swiftly put back on the list after that day. The service was amicable and the food delicious, which only taught me that I have to always be willing to give restaurants a second chance. Sadly, I don’t think my hips will allow me to consume rice drowned in butter five times a month, but it’s the sort of place I would have to visit at least once a month to get my Persian fix!
Address: 44 Westbourne Grove, London, Greater London W2 5SH
Telephone: 0207 229 0416
Closest Station: Bayswater or Queensway station
Parking: Pay and display parking on surrounding streets
Address: 10 Russell Gardens, London, W14 8EZ
Telephone: 0207 603 1130
Closest Station: Kensington Station
Parking: Pay and display on surrounding streets