There are few things worth staying home for: ER, sex - if you're unadventurous - and Ali Razavi's Persian rice with the fried potato crust. Sadly, the last I heard, Ali was running a string of laundrettes, so for that particular experience one must tape ER and go out to a Persian restaurant.
We went to Dish-Dash, newly opened on Goodge street and promising 'a modern interpretation of Persian food'. The 'modern interpretation' part should have been enough to send me running into the nearest Laundrette screaming for salvation and a short spin cycle. It might well be modern. It's just not Persian.
Actually it's a bit all over the place. The mazza is almost identical to any you would find in a Lebanese restaurant, The absurdly named main courses - Mish-Mash, are exactly that - for instance - A prawn curry from the Persian Gulf or - poetry too - Dish-Dash sausage and mash with an 'Aleppo' pepper sauce. There are also Grills, mostly kebabs, tarted up with a range of marinades and various unnecessary accessories like one of those women who don't know a gold chain too far when it has a designer logo dangling from it. 'Re-inventing authentic recipes' seems to mean pick a dish, add either tahina, pomegranate sauce or any Tom, Dick or Ali middle eastern spice to it, and call it Anglo-Persian. I'd call it ill-advised but then I'm an Iranian fundamentalist. I like Persian-Persian food.
It was a hot day, so I eschewed the exotic soups such as duck and pomegranate, and ordered the mazza while I waited for Delphine to arrive - seven dishes for £15 from a choice of thirteen hot and cold starters. Of these, the cumin-spiced pumpkin patties and the kibbeh - minced lamb stuffed with saffron rice - were very good; and the dips - muhammara, crushed walnuts with paprika - and baba ghanoush were delicious. The filo pastries filled with cheese and pine nuts were satisfyingly light and crispy. On the down side the falafel, without their usual companion - tahina sauce - were as dull and doughy as deep-fried roof felt and the hummus was horrible: Watery, tasteless with an unpleasant thick, grainy texture. It was shamingly reminiscent of the stuff I used to use from a tin before my Lebanese mother in-law beat me around the head with her Magimix and taught me how to make it properly.
This is awful, I told the manager.
Not all hummus tastes the same, he said. Every village has its own way of making it. We've had Lebanese women in here who say it isn't good, but it's just different.
Then, unceremoniously, he dipped his finger into ours. No, you're right, he said. It isn't good.
However, he didn't deduct it from the bill, but left us to ponder on the various rural complexities of hummus. I mean - chick peas, lemon juice, garlic, tahina, salt and a bit of liquid - how much room for felaheen/italics/ artistic expression is there?
The restaurant itself consists of two minimalist rooms with little arches cut into the dividing wall, a few decorative windows with coloured glass, and a bar at the back. In one room there's row of big squashy leather bean bags, while in the other there are chunky wooden stools, so close together that it seems possible to rub buttocks with all three of your neighbours. We sat in the grown up chairs, discretely losing the comfy cushions - I have my own upholstery, thank you.
Next I had a disappointing apricot and spinach khoresh with 'toasted' couscous' which looked unappetising and lived up to its image. The lamb may have been slow cooked but the apricots still held their shape as though added at a later stage of the cooking, and imparted no flavour to the stew. The couscous looked and tasted like grit. Budgies chirp to mind. Delphine fared somewhat better with her chicken kebabs served with tabbouleh and smoked Chile (sic) sauce. One kebab was moist, fragrant and melted in the mouth, but its smaller, drier partner did not. Slow-marinated Egyptian tomatoes were merely sliced beef tomatoes, apparently leisurely drenched in salad dressing, and the Yemeni chips were just fat chips sprinkled with sumac. Very Anglo, not much Persian. We toyed with our food whilst the waitress swept the floor (it was a late lunch, but not quite closing time) and the publicity conscious staff sat at the bar reading their press cuttings.
Pudding was a rather nice surprise. Mine - a dense pressed cardamom and chocolate cake with poached pears which I loved, and Delphine's a generous, gorgeous sticky round almond and orange cake.
They did have something that sounds somewhat like my fond memories of Persian rice - Dampokhtak - which amateurishly translated means steam cooked using a cloth to seal in the vapour. But I passed. Some things are best remembered as they were, in all their glory.
Much like Ali Razavi, I suppose. So rather than cruising laundrettes, we went off to Elizabeth Arden and had facials. Another very effective way of using steam.