SOMETIMES it’s the hidden gems in the city that bring the nicest surprises.
And Persian Delight, originally set up as a cafe three years ago by owner Ali Kashy, is one of them.
If you like Iranian food, this restaurant can’t be beaten. Food is fresh, served quickly and prices are great at a time when every penny counts.
It’s somewhere you can just drop in, no need to book, and friendly staff are always on hand to welcome you.
People come from far and wide to visit this eaterie, and there’s a real buzz with diners talking to each other – in all languages! It’s also a family establishment so children are welcome any time.
My husband Hossein and I have watched Persian Delight evolve over the years, so it’s great to see it so alive with customers.
Wherever you look, there’s something to catch your eye as you wait for dishes to arrive.
The restaurant’s décor ties together ancient Persian artwork with a cosmopolitan feel neatly.
My personal favourite piece of art is of the Faravahar with the words ‘good deeds, good thoughts, good words’ on it. It’s a little reminder that we should all strive to live a good life. I also love the copper detail on a decorative plate from the city of Isfahan.
There is definitely something special about watching flat bread being stretched out and baked in front of you. For me, it brings back memories of a family visit to Iran, where the four types of Iranian flatbread, including my favourite, nan-e sangak, are baked and brought home piping hot from the bakery for each meal. The aromas inside Persian Delight always make me reminisce!
Everything is cooked fresh, and as well as the normal menu, Ali cooks up a different Persian delicacy each day of the week. It’s a real feast of flavours.
On Monday, diners can indulge in gheymeh bademjan, a traditional Persian stew cooked with aubergine, split beans, lamb, potatoes and served with rice. It’s worth the £6.50 since I haven’t mastered the art of cooking it at home just yet!
A firm favourite among diners is on Thursdays, when baghali polow mahicheh is served. At £7, this dish is worth every penny. The rice is cooked with herbs, vegetables and broad beans and is served with a lamb shank.
For starters this time, my husband and I share a freshly-baked nan and my personal favourite dish, Kashk-e bademjan. This is the ultimate dip, it’s not the prettiest on the menu, but it’s definitely the most tasty and one I love to cook at home.
It’s made up of fried aubergine with onion, garlic, mint, a little tomato puree and kashk, which is thick whey usually found in Middle Eastern markets. It’s a dish that’s big enough to share – if you can spare any and is only £5.50.
The sweetness of the onion, freshness of the mint and velvety texture of the aubergine puree combines wonderfully with the creamy hit of the whey. It far exceeded my expectations when I first tasted this dish here. It’s fair to say I could eat a bucket-load, but with 260 calories in a 4oz serving, I have refrained for the sake of my waistline.
Next up, I order jujeh kabâb with rice, £6.50. This is chicken marinated in a saffron sauce which consists of minced onion, lemon juice and saffron before it is grilled.
Rice is a main staple in the Persian diet and is delicious with butter. The word ‘kabâb’ literally translates to cooking on fire.
The pieces of boneless chicken breast are served skewer-less (always a good thing) with fresh lime and tomatoes on a bed of rice. It is juicy, tender, filling and flavoursome and goes well with the tangy lime.
For drinks, I order a glass of doogh. It just pairs so well with jujeh kabâb. It’s a refreshing drink made with mint, water, yogurt, similar to Lassi in India. The colder it’s served, the better – and usually by the jug.
My husband opts for Soltani, this means Sultan’s feast and is a combination of one skewer of minced lamb called kabâb-e koobideh and one of lamb fillet, kabâb-e barg, served with rice, £8.50, and a side salad for an extra £1.
The koobideh is ground lamb mixed with parsley, onion and other Persian spices, while the barg is lamb fillet. Both go down a treat. They are tender and the delicious juices are soaked up by the rice. He has his main course with a glass of traditional tea.
As we unwind from a hard day, our favourite Persian singers appear on the video screens above our heads. There is nothing better than being serenaded by such beautiful music while you dine.
There is no alcohol served, but to me alcohol spoils the flavour of Persian food and it’s much better washed down with a glass of fragrant cardamom-infused tea or doogh.
We always round off our meal with more tea, though I am always tempted by the boxes of Noosheen Persian cookies (kooloocheh) behind the counter. These types of cookies traditionally come from Gilan in Northern Iran and are filled with a variety of flavours, including coconut, walnut and cocoa. They are a sorry second however to the freshly baked kooloocheh I experienced on a trip to Gilan! Traditional gaz or (pistachio nougat) is also a favourite with Persian tea. The most famous is from Isfahan and Ali hands it out to customers in celebration of his restaurant opening. An additional seating area with shisha pipes will open this weekend.
Before we leave, the owner thanks us for our custom. It would be difficult to meet anyone who is as passionate about Persian food, his business or culture as Ali Kashy.
In all, Persian Delight is a great place to dine. There’s not many restaurants where you can dine out for around £20, so it’s worth a visit.
Address: 208 Stanhope Street, Newcastle, NE4 5JT. Tel: 0191 273 3000, www.ukpersiandelight.com
Open: Monday to Saturday, 11am to 10.30pm, and Sundays, 11am to 9.30pm. Takeaways available.
First impressions: Inviting, friendly Iranian diner for all the family.
Style, design and furnishings: Ornamental Persian design and eye-catching features which set it apart from other places.
Cuisine: A very real taste of Persia.
Service: Excellent. Staff are warm, hospitable and polite.
Disabled facilities: Accessible.