Local fresh Persian
cuisine for everyone
Tucked away from the edgware road bustle you will find our little gem restaurant.
Established in 2001, Colbeh is a cosy spot used by our loyal local customers local and visiting tourist.
Framed Persian artwork is displayed on to the cream walls, a mosaic oven graces the entrance baking the waiter-cum bread maker (which creates a show as he slaps in the dough).
Colbeh`s extraordinary menu combines the traditional ingredients and recipes of Persia passed down from past generations.
We are committed to serving only the finest meats and freshest vegetables.
Best Halal restaurant in London which adheres to Islamic law, as defined in the Koran.
There used to be an admirable kebab restaurant in Acton called Zaffran, which was run by some extremely amiable Iranians. The owners kept a hefty copy of the Koran on top of the air-conditioning unit. When I remarked how good I thought it was that religion should find a place in high-street commercial life, they replied that they didn't keep it there for the purposes of worship, but as a useful weapon of defence if they were attacked or abused by late-night customers.
I hope Zaffran is still there because, aside from producing particularly toothsome kebabs of fearsome size, it was where I learned that the tandoor oven, which we associate so strongly with Indian cooking, actually originated in Persia and was introduced to India by the Mughal invaders. It was used to make huge, floppy breads - naan - the size of a shield, in which the kebabs and all their accompaniments were wrapped.
I was reminded of this when Online and I stepped into Colbeh in Porchester Place, which bills itself as a Persian restaurant. There, just inside the door, was a tandoor oven, with great tiles of dough hanging, as if by magic, from the concave inside surface, quickly hardening and blistering from the heat of the coals. This promising start was followed by an even more reassuring selection of goodies, embracing naazakhatoon, mirza ghasemi and kashk-e-bademjan, all variations of aubergine glop; salad olivieh, a salad of diced chicken, potato, egg, gherkin, mustard and mayonnaise; hummus and salad shirazi, made of tomato, red onion and cucumber. And all designed for piling on to that bread.
I wouldn't claim to be a world expert on Persian food or, indeed, any kind of expert at all - I don't know many people who are; Persian cooking, for all its fascinating variety, sitting astride the traditions of the Middle East, India and eastern Europe, is one of the lesser celebrated culinary cultures as far as this country is concerned - but I can tell when food has been properly prepared and hasn't been sitting around all day, dulling its edge. I found the inclusion of finely chopped walnuts in the kashk-e-bademjan added an intriguingly crunchy texture, while the unexpected heat of chilli in the naazakhatoon made for a lively contrast.
Walnuts in a finer crushed form appeared to thicken the sauce of chelo khoresh fesenjan, which was billed as the stew of kings. Clearly, the kings of Persia had more adventurous tastes than the House of Windsor because, as well as walnut, the sauce contained pomegranate, pumpkin and shredded chicken. Shredded chicken was the menu description, but to be more accurate it came up in about four substantial hunks. While Persian royalty might well have had the chef cooked in his own oven for such lèse-majesté, I thought that the chunky format sat rather well with the grainy, refreshingly acidulated sauce. With it came a really very good, light, nutty pilau rice.
Online had chosen a rather more orthodox kebab of minced chicken, which was as you might expect, but beautifully grilled, lightly charred on the surface, tender and moist below. And the salad he ordered to go with his skewers was a copious, if fairly crude affair, and certainly not in the same class of refinement as the salad shirazi or the salad olivieh.
We ended up sharing an ice cream made of cream, rosewater and pistachio nuts. I have always found that you have to be pretty careful with rosewater. A drip or two too many, and the whole place reeks like a beauty salon. As it was used here, it made plain old vanilla ice cream into something pleasantly exotic and, as I can never have enough pistachio nuts, that was fine, too.
There was no wine list, so before we settled down to action I had popped out to get a brace of bottles from a Threshers round the corner (two because Online wanted to drink white and I wanted red - neither of us finished our bottle, in case you wondered). It makes a bit of a change to get two bottles for less than the price that you'd have to pay for one off the list of a restaurant fully tooled up to asset-strip the average wallet.
Despite being in central London, Colbeh has the charm and grace of a neighbourhood restaurant. It is small and trim, with photographs of Isphahan, Persepolis and other such tourist hot spots covering the walls. The service was disarmingly happy to please, and efficient to boot.
The bill was £43.45. It may not be a breakthrough, cutting-edge, the-next-hot-cuisine kind of place. It's rather rarer
than that - modest, decent and sound.
Customers are welcome to bring their own bottle of wine as we do not serve alcohol.
There are no corkage charges.