Welcome to our Dining Beyond Zone 1 series of restaurant reviews, dedicated to seeking out quality local places to dine beyond the frenzy of Central London.
You know, we really don't get out to Ealing enough. It's not that far from Londonist Towers. We'll try harder this year, OK? Anyway, a recent visit found us needing food before the not-so-long trek back to Central Parts, and we drifted into Molana, one of several Iranian restaurants in that patch of West London.
The place was busy with a wonderful mix of diners. Iranian restaurants tend to fall into two categories - those that want to be wine bars when they grow up (usually darkly lit with music playing), and those that really really don't want you to (or expressly forbid your from) drink on the premises (brightly lit, no music). Molana seems to strike a very happy balance: there were certainly plenty of traditional Iranian families eating there (always an assurance of quality), but there were also a number of casual visitors who had 'brought their own', and our waiter cheerfully provided wine glasses and a cork screw. The atmosphere was informal and fun, with the wide-screen TV showing some football match or other barely audible over the lively chatter.
Anyway: on to the food. Iranian menus are pretty much standardised and based around what all Iranian men (allegedly) dream of: kebab. Molana is no exception, but they do offer a good range of other classic dishes - khoresht, or casseroles, served with rice or fancy pulao (rice with stuff up it), and there is also more for the vegetarian here than at most Persian eateries. We enjoyed a starter of sabzi, or herbs, with bread and cheese, and a sini-e-mazeh (tasting platter, or meze), which comprised two hot aubergine dishes, houmous, salad-e-olivieyeh (posh potato salad) and a spiced mushroom dish. These were all really rather excellent. The main courses did not disappoint either: our (extremely fussy) Iranian companions declared the jujeh kebab (lemon saffron chicken) and kebab-e-koobideh (minced lamb) some of the best they had tasted (we'll forgive the anomalous sweetcorn garnish). Our selection of salmon kebab was practically awesome: juicy, plentiful, and rich with the aroma of lemon and saffron. We were too full even to contemplate pudding, and made do with fragrant black tea.
Molana is the name given by Iranians to the dude we know as Rumi, and the poet's life is certainly celebrated in the restaurant's decor. But it is the outsider (insider? whatever - what we really mean is whacky as hell) wall panels and light fittings which frankly steal the show. Bulbs in inverted tea pots, dangling out of samovars, peeking through mangled clocks. Truly it is worth visiting Molana for the fixtures and fitting alone.
It has to be said that with most starters at £2-£3, and the majority of mains under a tenner, this place is a tad cheaper than a lot of its rivals. Molana is open seven days a week from noon - 11.30pm, and is at 76 - 78 Uxbridge Road, West Ealing W13 8RA.
We visited Molana socially and paid for our own meals.