So, while I have my list of places to check out, it has been a while since I have come across a halal restaurant that has really caught my eye and got me all excited to go out and blog about. On top of all the 500 new burger places, we have the usual Chinese, Turkish, Lebanese etc, so you can understand my predicament when deciding what to write about next. I want to show you guys somewhere worth going and getting all food coma-ed about. Well, it all changed last Thursday, I think I may have found a tiny place to salvage my love for London’s halal restaurant scene and that place is… Ariana II!
So Ariana II actually has a base restaurant in New York and has quite a good following. BW had been there once before with some friends from work and came home raving about their no nonsense, awesome food. Obviously since then, I’ve been a tiny bit excited as I’ve only had great Afghan food years ago in New York! We both found a day we were free and took along BW’s friend with us to Kilburn.
The restaurant was relatively packed but we managed to walk right in and grab a table for the three of us! After sitting down and pondering over the menu, we were ready to order..
A flatbread that had been stuffed with pureed pumpkin and toasted to a nice golden brown. It doesnt sound like the most obvious order but the combination of the slightly crispy bread and the soft, sweet pumpkin will have you wanting more. It was even more tastier when you dunked the bolanee into the accompanying white sauce and chilli sauce – these will be your friends for the rest of the meal, remember that. Of course, if you aren’t a fan of pumpkin, they have alternatives with potatoes, lentils, and spring onions.
A popular afghan staple, this dish consists of several little dumplings (similar to dim sum) that are stuffed with minced lamb and several spices, and is then steamed. Ariana II then covered the mantu in a meaty stew. The mantu was good but seeing as I’ve had homemade mantu before, I felt that the lamb inside the dumplings didn’t have much flavour nor did the meat sauce they had poured on top.
Two minced lamb kebabs came piping hot and juicy to the table, served up with soft, fluffy brown rice. The Kofta was actually very similar to the Persian style Koobideh, not quite on par with Alounak, but not too far behind, maybe a little more meaty and a little lighter in spice.
Big chunks of soft boneless chicken that had been grilled to juicy perfection and was full of flavour. These were really yummy to dunk in the sauces and got polished off first.
Seeing as this had been recommended several times plus every table in the restaurant had ordered the dish, it only made sense for BW to order this dish, What arrived was a mountainful of brown rice littered with sweet plump raisins and sauteed, sliced carrots. I vaguely remembered the menu stated a lamb shank would be present but I just couldn’t find it until BW told me to move the rice (ha silly me), and lo and behold, there was a lamb shank hidden underneath! The brown rice was soft, sweet, and incredibly moreish, and then the lamb shank. The meat just cleanly fell off the bone at the slight touch of my fork and was unbelievably soft and flavoursome. From the sweetness of the rice to the meaty lamb, every bite was amazing and I ended up turning this into my dish and ate most of it. Haha sorry BW! My absolute favourite dish of the night!
The bill between the three of us came up to approximately £44, including drinks but no service, so £15 each. Looking at the bill now, I’ve realised that they have charged more than the online menu price but I didn’t check the menu that was in the restaurant itself to see whether these new prices are reflected in store. Regardless of this, £15 each is pretty incredible for the amount of food we received plus the quality of each dish – the food tasted great!
The restaurant was full of all sorts, either couples on a casual dates, friends catching up, and even large work dinners! Lots of takeaways were also being ordered as Ariana II deliver within a 3 mile radius which is the perfect option if you want to stay in. What we have here is a real hidden London gem worth discovering for some good Afghan food and I’m pretty sure I will be asking BW to take me there every week now!