We’re all creatures of habit – what side of the bed we sleep on, our morning coffee preference, how we stock the fridge, the route we take to work….
And when it comes to choosing somewhere to eat, we tend to stick to the places we know. But sometimes doesn’t it feel good to try somewhere new?
In this series of reviews, we are doing just that – getting out and about to the suburbs in the hope of discovering that hidden gem to add to our list of favourites.
This week we visited Alborz in Levenshulme, an unlicensed restaurant we chose to mark the beginning of #GoSoberForOctober, which many people seem to be attempting.
With its neon signs of blue and red, from the outside this Persian restaurant looks similar to many of the takeaways in the area.
Things improve markedly on entering as the interior is much easier on the eye; café-like with warm, Middle Eastern promise. Oversized Persian vases and a whole area dedicated to tea-making and all the paraphernalia involved are the main features of the space.
Service from Vicente was helpful from the go. Having not eaten much Persian food before, I needed all the recommendations I could get.
The food is typically rice, saffron, meat, saffron, vegetables, saffron, nuts and pulses, saffron, fruit in most savoury dishes, some mild spicing. Oh, and did I mention saffron? The ‘red gold’ is in practically every dish, so if you don’t like it this might not be the best place for you.
Persian Tea £1 (Pot £3)
This mild yet bitter Persian tea is made with cardamom and cinnamon. They also serve it here with mint, which I actually wish I’d ordered, as I imagine with some sugar it would actually taste much nicer than this one. We also tried some of the traditional doogh (£1 a glass) which is described on the menu as ‘a refreshing yoghurt drink seasoned with mint and salt’. It tasted like one of my Polish salad dressings. I like it, but that doesn’t mean I want to drink it.
Fresh Taftoon Bread £1 with Kashk-e-Bademjan £4
This is an example of some very strange pricing. £1 for the size and workmanship that has gone into this leavened flatbread seems a bit low. The bread was very good, like a pitta stroke naan, with equal thick doughy parts and thin crisp sections. The kashk-e-bademjan was a superb aubergine dip which was served warm. The caramelised onions in there gave sweetness and depth, with the whey yoghurt adding a salty tangy finish. Possibly the best use of an aubergine I have tasted. Yes, you can see a rather un-Persian hummus (£3) in this picture. My plus one insisted we order this. It was OK and not too oily as some can be.
The grilled section of the menu comprises mainly kebabs. We ordered this skewer of boneless chicken fillet marinated in saffron, lemon and onions. It was juicy and I do like my chicken with lemon. It also went well with both the remaining Taftoon bread and the excellent saffron rice. Before serving of the main courses we were randomly given a plate of butter and salad cream. I’ve no idea why.
Grilled Seabass £13
We ordered this as it was the only fish dish on the menu and we like to try all food groups in our reviews. The healthily-sized fish arrived sizzling at the table. And although seabass is not actually a favourite of mine, this one was cooked decently enough with a fantastic crispy skin. Served with baghali-polo (a fragrant rice with broad beans and dill), the fish wasn’t overpowered by the subtle hints of saffron, lemon juice and garlic.
From the section of stews, this one consisted of yellow lentils, tender lamb, dried lime, and mild spices in a rich tomato sauce. Alas, their interpretation of ‘rich’ and mine differ vastly. To me, this tasted like the lamb had been cooked separately and then added to the tomato and lentil sauce after, resulting in no rich layers of meaty flavour at all. The mild spices were way too subtle for me, and it lacked seasoning.
Baamieh (Okra) Stew £6.50
This stew again felt a bit thin, unfortunately. Although cooked okra might not be to everyone’s taste (it can get quite slimy) I actually quite like it, but there needed to be more of it in there. Don’t eat the dried limes. Vicente told us this but too late!
Overall, Alborz was rather hit and miss. Service, value, bread, dips and grills were hits. Misses were stews, repetitiveness, and some sloppily presented plates.
But overall a thumbs up and a good choice for a month without alcohol. Anyone not abstaining this month can bring their own bottle. Maybe a nice Shiraz?
820 Stockport Road, Manchester, M19 3AW