The moment I stepped into the Behesht Restaurant, I felt like I was no longer in cold and rainy London, but on a lively street in Iran. To my left, the wall of the restaurant was covered in pebbledash and paintings of Iranian buildings and scenes. Street lamps were stuck on the wall in regular intervals, lucky charms dangling from them. Looking up, the wooden ceiling was adorned with beautifully engraved bird cages and wind charms dangling down.
We booked a table ahead and was promptly guided there by a friendly staff member. On the way, I could not help but stare at the Persian vases, jewelry, treasure boxes and various other things on display. It felt as if I was in the treasure cave from “Ali Baba and the Forty thieves”. The dining room, Saloon Heathrow, was very cozy. The chairs and tables and floor were covered with beautiful fabric. I was surrounded by other patrons having mouth-watering Persian food. I couldn't wait to order.
I let my Iranian friends, the experts, order for me. For starters, we had Taftoon (Iranian bread) with 3 dips: mirza ghasemi (grilled aubergine, garlic, eggs, and tomato), mast musir (yogurt mixed with shallots, garlic) and kashke bademjan (fried aubergine, walnuts, with fried onions, herbs, and spices). Our Iranian friends taught us to eat them by taking a small piece of the bread, rolling it and dipping it inside. The bread was soft, light, and full of crispy air bubbles. Its fluffy texture went very well with the richness of the dips. My favorite was mirza ghasemi. I can still feel the gentle sourness from the aubergine and the lingering flavor from it.
For the main course, we had a sharing of Kebab (“special mixed kebab”), consisting of a skewer of diced tender baby lamb fillet, one skewer of chicken fillet, one skewer of chicken on the bone, two skewers of mined baby lamb served with grilled tomato, salad, and rice. Coming from Vietnam where good rice is an important part of our culture, I was hugely impressed by the rice. It was soft, fluffy and buttery and the layer of rice with saffron on top added a really nice fragrance. The lamb skewer was rich, a bit salty, and had a hint of onion. The chicken, marinated with saffron and lemon juice, balanced the fattiness of the lamb out.
To accompany our food, we had a drink called doogh. I found it a bit weird drinking it by itself, as it was dense and tasted a bit like salty yogurt. However, it went very well with the rest of the food as it balanced out the oiliness and heaviness from the kebabs and the dips. The vibrant color of the dishes made a wonderful feast for the eyes (and the mouth!)
We finished off the meal with tea from northern Iran, served in teapots and teacups with delicate decoration. To enjoy the tea with the sugar cubes, we dipped the sugar cubes in the tea, put them on the tip of our tongue then drank the tea and let the sugar melt on our tongues.
On the way out, we looked at the restaurants’ two parrots in amusement and tried (unsuccessfully) to teach them to repeat after us. We were also fascinated by seeing fresh Taftoon (Iranian bread) being taken straight out of a Taftoon oven.
Generally, I would recommend this restaurant to anyone who wants to try out Iranian food for the first time or just wants to have good Middle Eastern food. We spent 14 pounds/person and still had leftovers. Additionally, there are many options available for vegetarians, but maybe not vegans. Having a meal in Behesht was an eye-opening experience. In an age where the Middle East is usually depicted in the media with war, terrorism and Islamophobia, after coming to Behesht, I feel like there is so much life and positivity to this culture for us to explore. I will definitely come back to Behesht.