With so many Iranian restaurants in West London, I decided to visit Behesht on Harrow Road following a recommendation from my friend, Nina. Nearby is patisserie Assal 2, where rows and stacks of honeyed delights tempt and awaken the hungry eye. It seemed a lot cheaper than most of the other West London Iranian haunts where prices fail to be displayed at all. Just past this distraction lies Behesht’s neon clad signage.
Greeted by a fiery Tandoor oven and stacks of bubbled flat breads, you know you have stepped out of England when you step into Behesht. I knew it would be one of these revelation moments, when you find a new favorite place which offers good food and an all round authentic experience, a pearl amongst the thousands of mediocre eateries which the city has to offer.
‘Welcome.’ Our pony-tailed host, Iman, approaches us and smiles throughout the evening. He offers personal recommendations which go down a treat for our less-experienced-in-Persian-cuisine palates. Nooks and crannies of the restaurants are home to diverse type of diner. Persian families, English eccentrics and lone diner: They’re all here for some kind of escapism. Looking around, its easy to lose yourself as textiles, fountains, hand drums, metallic lamps, clay pots and kitsch art work hang from ceiling to floor. There are some beautiful mosaics scenes with carry out onto the restaurant’s exterior. Shades of red are everywhere only adding to the immense exotic nature of the place. My father, excitable in anticipation of the food’s arrival, searches deep within and comes out with some Farsi phrases in a surprisingly accurate accent. West London is after all a hub of the Persian community and where he has resided for over 35 years.
Aside from the humble kebab and recognisable mezze dishes (humus & yoghurt / cucumber dip), we decided on mixed starters, Tah Dich – crispy rice with stew, 2 stewy dishes (Khoresht) and a kebab. Worrying that it wouldn’t be enough for a table of four I was soon put at ease when 5 dishes become us accompanied by 2 tandoor flat breads. Aside from the above mentioned two, we had Kashke Bademjan (aubergines with walnuts and spices), Mirza Ghasemi (rich aubergine, tomato and egg dip) and Salad Olvieh (like Russian Salad with chicken). But the time we’d polished that off, our mains although delicious, were abandoned half way through and demoted to doggy bags. We chose two types of Khoresht, one sweet chicken and walnut, and one lamb and aubergine. The kebab well, I guess kebabs are always kebabs, right? With a sprinkle of sumac (at hand on the table) it transformed and became even tastier. Dessert was Persian Ice Cream flavoured with saffron, rose water and pistachio nuts. Tea arrived in a beautiful red china pot, sitting snuggly on top of a tea light to maintian its warmth.
The rich saucy stews with saffron rice were heavily spiced. The dishes were soured with pickled lime and sumac, or dense with nutty sweetness. Desert was familiar yet exotic. Already familiar with Middle Eastern & Turkish dishes, as well as Indian & even Afghani, our experience in Behesht was like finding a missing link of logic in food anthropology between two areas of the globe.
Bidding farewell to CouCou the resident parrot, I knew I’d be back. Behesht offers an inexpensive, authentic experience. Behesht, as the name suggests in Farsi, is a little piece of Paradise on a grotty stretch of Harrow Road.
Check out Behesht’s Website.