In the 25 years that I’ve lived on the boundary between NWs 6 and 2, I’ve managed to build up an unrivalled un-knowledge of Cricklewood. I have absolutely no idea why this is the case, but Shoot Up Hill has been a kind of no man’s land that I didn’t dare cross.
But last night, struck by hunger and propelled by a new-found sense of adventure, I decided to take the plunge into the murky depths of Cricklewood Broadway.
Now strictly speaking, of course, the Afghan/Persian taste-fest that is Zeytoon isn’t in NW6. But what with it being a 10 minute walk up the road from Kilburn underground station (I’m a fast walker), and considering that dining there was a darned pleasant experience, I think it’s worth the review.
Zeytoon is decorated beautifully with tapestries and tassled rugs, painted murals and Middle Eastern bric-a-brac. The colourful surroundings, the friendly staff and the table lay-out – with long extended-family-sized tables in the centre of each of the two well-lit dining areas – create a warm and relaxed atmosphere.
Every few minutes the smell of freshly made Persian flat bread, baked in a traditional Tanoor clay oven in the dining room, drifts through the restaurant. The bread, made to order, arrives at our table warm and soft, and is eagerly devoured.
We shared the Mixed Starter (a selection of any 5 starters, £13.50) between the three of us. The highlight was the Kashk-e-Bademjan, a warm dip consisting of fried aubergines in olive oil mixed with walnuts, herbs and spices. The hummus was disappointing – a little too garlicy for my liking – but the Burani Spinach was a creamy delight.
For mains you are basically faced with the choice of either kebab or stew. My dining companion TC opted for the Chelow Kebab-e-Koubideh, two skewers of fine minced lamb served with rice (£5.95). TC is a greedy so-and-so, but even he was defeated by the generously sized portion.
The Baqoli Polow with Lamb, a speciality served only on Saturdays, was also a huge success. The lamb, so tender that dining companion WC could only assume that it must have been slow-cooked for the best part of a week, was buried in a mound of steamed rice. At £9.95 it is one of the pricier items on a pleasantly affordable menu, but by all accounts well worth the additional pennies.
Lamb and aubergine dominate the menu, and my main was a stew combining the two: Chelow Khoresht-e-Qeimeh Bademjan (£6.95). Packed with flavourful spice, it was just the right side of fragrant – I’d initially feared that I might find it a little soapy by the end. Not so.
I’m loath to describe the experience as “authentic” because, to tell you the truth, I have no idea what dining in Iran or Afghanistan is like, but I imagine this is a pretty close approximation, and well worth the short trip up the A5. Good food, good value, good stuff.