Can you see the man in the window pausing to look at us whilst baking bread for lunch?
The outfit: Colbeh, 6 Porchester Place, off Edgware Road W2 2BS, 020 7706 4888.
The hours of business: Mon - Sun: 12:00 - 23:30
The bottom-line: Colbeh means shack and there's a charming shackish feel about this cosy Persian which was bustling on a Monday night, packed with hardly enough room for the waiting staff to negotiate the tables. A traditional tandoor oven by the entrance thawed the ice in the most frostbitten of cheeks, and the preparation of the bread tossed in it provided ample entertainment in itself.
The local market: Off a swish shopping street in an affluent neighbourhood off the Marble Arch end of Edgware Road, yet within an easy five minute stroll of the Central line.
The bread, chips and gravy: Four of us shared the special mixed starter with fresh-from-the-authentic-tandoor-oven huge naan bread. Hummus, onion salad, walnut sabzi, one that was a bit like sandwich spread/potato salad/egg mayonnaise all in one, a red one and a surprise in the middle - a yoghurty, auberginey innocent looking dip with a fiery spice kick to keep you on your toes; a delicious selection. A huge mound of rice formed the basis of all our main dishes, with the upper echelon tinged a bright yellow saffron. A cheap as chips lamb stew made with split peas carried wonderful limey tones and was actually topped with Chipsticks; a lamb, aubergine and kidney bean stew had a distinctly green hue yet went down a treat and a pair of lamb kebabs, one fillet, one minced, impressed with their brilliant simplicity marinaded and cooked to pink perfection. Colbeh's famous sweet and sour “Stew of Kings” was much anticipated and although it featured chicken chunks rather than shredded chicken as billed, the dish was a royally rich and intensely aromatic mix of walnut, citrus and pomegranate.
Colbeh was so busy, they’d unfortunately run out of their house special Persian ice cream but the sorbet substitute was cleansing, light and sweet, made with rose water and laced with, apparently, coconut. Persian tea all round rebalanced sobriety and provoked much domestic-minded speculation about whether it was possible to stick the elaborate teapot and burner, dinky glass cups and all, in a bag and make off with it.
A capital choice to: Satiate your meat craving and try something a little different.
The damage: £61.00 not including service . Corkage? We corked our own, no extra charge. Price per head a jolly reasonable £15 or so, depending on how greedy you feel.