[Charing Cross-London] Iranian food @ Nutshell

This new Iranian place was reviewed by Grace Dent about a month ago in The Guardian. It wasn’t so much the review that piqued my interest as the menu which I would have been happy to eat pretty much anything on it. Also give it’s location in right near Trafalgar Square and lots of theatres the prices seemed pretty reasonable.

The cocktail menu looked interesting so I went for the negroni Irani- sour cherry wine, spiced campari -saffron gin. The spicing was nice but couldn’t really detect the sour cherry wine. (I much prefer the spiced negroni at Rules cocktail bar. The missus opted for a yazd -sour pink pepper pisco, pomegranate, rose, lemon. It was a good looking drink and was not a bad pisco but didn’t taste all that different from a standard pisco.

Pisco Sour

As soon as we had ordered our cocktails they wanted us to order food. The menu is quite short but so are the descriptions so this necessitates an explanation of every dish by the waiter. It’s tiring for the diner so what must it be like for the staff. Anyway we ordered our food along with the wine we wanted. I assumed that any decent restaurant would wait a while and let us have at least a few sips of our cocktails before bringing out the food. But no a couple of minutes after our cocktails arrived so did our first dishes and then straight after that they turned up with the wine. They tried to put it and the wine cooler on the very small table already packed with two cocktails, 2 plates of food and water glasses and water. I pointed out that a) there was no room & b) we’d only just started our cocktails. Luckily they saw sense and they kept it chilled off the table (though this would cause it’s own problems later). Twenty minutes into a 2 hour reservation time slot and we already felt we were being rushed.

The first two dishes themselves were very nice. Babaganoush with walnuts and mint was lovely and smokey and the walnuts provided a nice texture. The blackberry ( it may look in the picture like blackberries plural but it was one cut into three and artfully placed) was a nice touch. The second dish beetroot salad with goats cheese was well executed especially as the goat’s cheese was a very creamy example and complimented the beetroot perfectly.

Babaganoush (left) & beetroot & goats cheese.

The larger plates were something of a mixed bag. The dish I had the highest hopes for turned out to be pretty disappointing and what was notionally a side dish was the star of the show. The octopus with butter beans wasn’t bad but the octopus itself was a little tough and the stew could have done with more seasoning. The other large plate was the oxtail dumplings with sour cherries and chickpeas. This was the dish I was most looking forward to (I mean oxtail dumplings who wouldn’t order that?). I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect but definitely not what I got. The dumplings themselves were like very thick skinned Chinese dumplings. I’d assumed there would be tender strands of oxtail within. Once bitten into there was rush of a savoury liquid but virtually no filling. The saffron potatoes though were very good indeed. Beautifully crisp on the outside beautifully soft inside with a subtle hint of saffron and a good sour dip.

Clockwise from top, Octopus, Saffron Potatoes, Oxtail Dumplings

So onto ordering dessert which proved slightly tricky. We were asked if we’d like dessert and we confirmed we would. However only after we’d finished our wine and as it wasn’t on the table we weren’t sure how much we had left. We had about a glass left each in the bottle and they poured it. They then asked us if we’d like to order dessert. We repeated we’d like to finish our wine first. Two minutes late different waiter same question , same response . Two minutes later original waiter, same question and we finally gave in and ordered. I know margins are tight and rents high but we still had 40 minutes to go on our allotted time. Restaurants feel the need to turn tables but there a subtler ways of doing it ( a chap at the next table paying his bill jokingly said he’d enjoyed his meal so much he could stay another hour and was told he only had the table for another 15 minutes). Hopefully as this is a new venture it’s teething problems and a training issue.

Fig and Yogurt and Pistachio & Chocolate

Apologies if this review has come across as a bit of a rant about the service as the food was pretty good in the main but going out to eat is not just about the food. After the meal the missus asked how I felt. I replied " Like I’ve just been processed".


Perfect description of your experience.

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I feel exhausted just reading this. (Albeit simultaneously craving sour cherry wine.)

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Wow. Do you think this was an attempt at cost control or that genuinely was enough blackberry flavour for the dish? If the former, that really is indescribably stingy.

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My guess would be that it was for aesthetics. In terms of appearance, I reckon it looks very nicely balanced as it is — using three whole blackberries of that size would look clumsy.

Not sure. The portion was actually quite small. It could have done with another blackberry as the fruitiness was nice but got a bit lost. I take @Kake’s point about aesthetics but 2 blackberries chopped and scattered nicely wouldn’t have spoiled things.