September 15, 2011

When you enter this little unpretentious restaurant, you’re warmly welcomed (especially if the owner greets you) and you already feel you’ll have a pleasant time there.

Shandis is the only Persian cuisine restaurant that I know in the Islington area, among all other places scattered along the young and busy Upper Street.
Forget the surrounding agitation and the glass’n’glitter style just for the duration of a good meal and come enjoy this calm and traditional atmosphere.
You’ll need to be attentive to make sure you don’t miss it as its façade is very very discreet (just next to Fig & Olive). Fortunately they put some tables as well as a board outside so we notice there’s a restaurant living there!

If you’re not used to the Persian cuisine, simply remember that most of the dishes come with rice – usually saffron rice – and are based on lamb or chicken. Persian rice is to me the best! They have an arduous way to cook it, by rinsing it several times, using a dishcloth around the lid etc., but at the end, this is absolutely perfect. My top favourite thing about Persian rice is the “tadig”, golden crust of rice, but unfortunately I never found it in any restaurant, only at Persian friends’ house (home made is always the best anyway).

I advise you to go for a starter + a main course. I haven’t tested any dessert, but they don’t have many choices on the menu and savouries are usually much better than sweets in Persian restaurants. However if you have the chance to go to a Persian shop, go for biscuits and other sweets as they are particularly refined. In London I’d recommend Reza (345 Kensington High Street, West Kensington, London W8 6NW), good products and very nice people 🙂

Anyway let’s get back to Shandis. The most common meal in Iran is called “Koobideh” or “Chelow kabab”, which consists of minced lamb mixed with parsley and chopped onions and served with rice – differently cooked depending on the mood or the place. Black pepper, sumac and turmeric are usually added to the lamb, and the latter gives a slightly yellow or green colour to the meat. If you go for that, it’s a safe bet, you can’t be disappointed.

This time, I had one of my favourite Persian dish: Zereshk Polo. If only I could eat that every single day… Doesn’t it look delicious?
Zereshk Polo is made of barberry rice with chicken. Barberry rice is saffron rice cooked with those tart little berries, almonds, pistachios and butter.
The chicken is slowly cooked during 2h in oven with onion, garlic and pepper.
At the end, you get a very tender meat with a perfect rice. Berries give a slight sweet and sour taste which is the secret of the dish.

At Shandis, you feel a bit like eating at home – i.e. great quality. Portions are enough, and well presented although not extremely sophisticated.

Two suggestions for starters – very traditional:

  • salad olivieh: diced chicken, potatoes, peas, carrots, eggs, gherkins and mayonaise
  • masto-khiar: strained yoghurt with diced cucumber and dried mint – very refreshing

This comes with some flat bread.
Don’t hesitate to order several starters to share – they’re really worth it.

For those of you who are big fans of sweet and sour experiences, go for Khoreshte Fessenjan or Shirin Polo which are among Persian specialities.
Shisha and wifi available.

Prices: £3 for starters, between £6 and £11 for main courses and £3.50 for desserts.

> Verdict: It is always a pleasure to go to Shandis, either for lunch or diner, with friends or loved one. Impeccable service. I highly recommend that hidden little gem. No effort to make, it’s simple, yummy and affordable. What else?

PS: thanks to my sweet love for taking me to this nice place as a surprise to enjoy a delightful evening 🙂

Infos: Shandis – 149A Upper St, Islington, London, N1 1RA – 020 7354 0087 – Highbury & Islington station or Angel station

Shandis Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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