On a chilly evening, I was grateful to be invited along with Jonathan to try outHana, the new Persian restaurant at the West End Green side of town. The venue has gone through a series of changes over the last few years, and the latest incarnation is thankfully quite different to Le Petit Coin, our second ever #whampreview destination some three years ago.
Happily, the neat, clean, nicely-lit room was warm; at this time of year it’s really awkward when you walk into a restaurant, then realise it’s freezing cold and quickly have to decide whether to make an about-turn or not. (There is one method I personally recommend to help warm up: try The Black Lion’s mulled wine as I did on this occasion – it’s fantastic).
Having been warmly welcomed by the delightful duo of manageress Alicia, and her very able waitress Pamela, we were guided through the menu. As usual, I was distracted by the wine list and took little in. Starting off with four dips, I was pleased to be warned that the hummus contained a lot of garlic. As @Sparklegirl21 correctly tweeted recently, there’s no such thing as too much garlic. Predictably, this was our favourite, but all four were good, one with spinach, another with cold chicken, and a warm aubergine dip.
The dips came with very thin flatbreads coated in sesame seeds. This thinness allowed them to be devoured without eating too much before mains arrived. When they did, they were well presented and immediately appetising. Jonathan noted that his enjoyable Ghafgazi mixed skewer (£12) – chunky cuts of marinated lamb fillet and chicken – arrived well-grilled, and I thought it had an elegant simplicity to it, with its colourful grilled tomato and perfect saffron rice.
I was drawn towards the Khorosheth Gheymeh, invitingly priced at £7.95. This stew of diced lamb in tomato sauce, split peas and sun-dried limes, topped with finely cut potato chips and rice (I took up the option of adding aubergine for £1), was delicious, and perfect for an icy-cold evening – though I don’t recall the chips being present for some reason! The various elements were warming and blended very well together; well-seasoned, with sweetness, sourness, and a healthy dose of cinnamon. The lamb was tender and flavoursome, and all in all this was an uplifting dish, cheerfully served in an authentic little pot. It’s a dish I’d like to have again. Our wine, a Tempranillo, also proved a sound choice.
Some excellent saffron ice cream arrived, accompanied by another plate that is a little hard to explain – a sort of sponge-pancake hybrid wrapped around a soft, sweet, creamy centre, which was quite enjoyable. Having recently mocked me for buying myself some Thornton’s chocolates to enjoy one night, Jonathan now seemed to find it gleefully amusing when I likened our dessert to that traditional family favourite, Arctic Roll!
Hana is something different for West Hampstead. It offers good value, and is only round the corner from plenty of other popular haunts – so I hope plenty of people will make the effort to get along there. Expect smiling, enthusiastic service, and a well thought-out menu that also includes some great-sounding seafood options by the way.
I suggest using the current bone-numbing weather as a very good reason to try Hana, enjoy interesting food in a nice environment, and reminisce about Arctic Roll. And if you’re still cold when you leave, pop in to The Black Lion for that piping hot mulled wine.
Happy Christmas, diners – the Port and cheeseboard are not far off now! My advice is to eat, drink, and be merry – and then repeat several times. Cheers!