An authentic taste of the Middle East, in a London park
“Ariana is a blend of Persian and Afghan cuisine which offers its customers a diverse variety of traditional dishes brought together from different regions. Our Persian cuisine is very traditional and provides a large variety.”
An old school friend of mine, Mark got in touch out of the blue after seeing the Scoff site. Now a loyal reader he wanted to take me to one of his favourite restaurants, Ariana. He used to live in Mile End, round the corner from this restaurant and became one of it’s most regular customers. Ross came along for the ride.
It’s located on the edge of Mile End park and looks a pretty make shift shack as you approach. The interior has a really nice feel to it, very traditional, dark and warm thanks to the tandoor they bake their own bread in. We’re greeted by the manager, who Mark knows well and taken outside to our table in the garden. It’s a nice outdoor space and there’s a special shisha corner to one side. Sadly, it’s freezing so we ask for a table inside instead.
It’s a BYO alcohol restaurant and there’s no corkage, so we crack open our beers and look over the menu. It’s pretty extensive and covers seafood, skewers of meat, stews, vegetarian and speciality rice dishes. Obviously we turn to Mark for some suggestions. We order some bread and a portion of Kashk-e-Badenjan (£3.50), which is cooked aubergines mixed with whey and herbs. One of the staff goes over to the oven and starts rolling out balls of dough to nice, big flat breads and sticks them to the inside of the tandoor using a novelty size oven mit. The bread was lovely and fresh and the Kashk-e-Badenjan was a stunning accompaniment to dip the bread in. For our main courses I went for the Ghemeh Badenjan (£7.50) consisting of stewed finely diced lamb cooked with aubergines, split peas, tomatoes, dry lime and served with saffron steamed basmati rice. It was really tasty and had a nice texture thanks to the split peas. Ross ordered the Qabuli Palouw (£9.50), which was a boiled lamb shank, hidden under a mound of rice with carrot and raisins, almond and pistachio and Mark had the Mantoo (£6.95) which was wheat flour stuffed with minced lamb and onion, served with yoghurt, dry mint and meat sauce. Think Persian ravioli – delicious.
I was the only one to try a dessert, the Persian Sweet made with milk, egg, butter, cinnamon and semolina at £3.00. It was lovely. Crispy pastry on top, then a soft, rich, flavoured semolina, the same consistancy as a thick custard. Easily big enough for two people to share, which, given the price is an absolute bargain.
Really good recommendation from Mark. Loved the look and feel of the place and it would be great to come back in the summer and sit out in the garden with a mint tea and a shisha. Great range of dishes, I’d like to try their grilled meat and fish dishes. Very reasonably priced and the fact that it’s BYO makes it great value for money.