Plov-tography by Chris Osburn
It's a long way from Central London to Central Asia, but the culinary traverse to the heart of the Silk Road just got a lot easier with the Marylebone opening of Samarqand. A heartily savoury menu, a refined and comfortable interior, quite possibly the most earnest waiter in London, an appreciatively gracious maître d' and a couple of incredibly laid back and friendly owners turned our invitation to review into a wonderfully delectable midday visit. Our lunch ending shot of Kazakh vodka garnished with pickled gherkin possibly helped to cinch our love for this newbie resto as well.
Named after one the world's oldest inhabited cities and one of the first truly cosmopolitan destinations, Samarqand offers a range of traditional dishes that are both reasonably priced (you'd expect to pay more given the setting and postcode) and perfectly portioned (satiating without overdoing it). Londonist was especially pleased with our nourishing starter of ugro (chicken soup with home made egg noodles and herbs, £6.75) and with our nicely spiced lamb samsa (tandoori baked lamb samosa with bouillon, £7.95). For mains, the manty (steamed lamb dumplings with Asian herbs and yoghurt, £10.95) was a winner as well and the Samarqand plov (traditional Central Asian rice dish cooked with succulent lamb, spices, onion and carrot and served with Asian tomato salad, £11.50) delighted us the Nth degree and had our palates pondering the mix of flavours.
With a menu rooted in the cuisines of countries such as Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, Samarqand is a bit of a carnivore's dream, particularly if you like lamb. However, vegetarians are catered to and we were told more veggie options are to be made available.
Launched by Bek Narzi, bar consultant and award-winning mixologist, and his brother Iska (both hailing originally from Tajikistan), the blend of traditional and contemporary décor is as subtly inviting as the seasoning from the restaurant's open kitchen is delicious. Service is as helpful and sincere as it gets. We can list no faults. Indeed, much of the convo during our lunch was about when we could get back there!
Guests to Samarqand should find their experience (whether having a feast or just popping in for a drink) to be welcoming and unique.
Samarqand is located at 18 Thayer Street, W1U 3JY. Best book in advance if planning an evening venture, but you should be in the clear if you can swing by for lunch. Visit the restaurant online at www.samarqand-restaurant.com.