Checking out a new restaurant is always a bit of a risk; you might end up wishing you’d just gone to somewhere you know you’ll get a good meal or, if you’re lucky, you’ll end up finding somewhere to add to your list of regulars. For almost eighteen months now, every single time I’ve gone down Roundhay Road in Leeds, Darvish has caught my eye. The traditional Iranian tiles that make up its frontage stand out on a road littered with take-away joints. Whilst passing not so long ago I decided to look it up online and see if it was finally time to venture in. As it turns out, Darvish comes highly recommended – not least, by Jamie Oliver who once visited and cooked with the chefs! Not only that, but judging by the menu online it had a wide veggie selection and was very reasonably priced.
Recently, I finally visited Darvish for dinner one Monday evening. Inside the restaurant is filled with Persian knick-knacks and brightly woven tablecloths. To me it has the feeling of being in a restaurant abroad and I just love that feeling so things definitely got off to a good start. We’d booked ahead but being a Monday night there were only a few tables of fellow diners though I got the impression that it’s a place that has its regulars. We decided that as it was our first time here, and first time eating Iranian food, that we would try as much as possible.
To begin, we decided to try the Doogh; a yoghurt drink mixed with sparkling water, salt and dried mint. Doogh was available to order at £1 a glass or £2.50 for a jug. To be honest we weren’t 100% sure what we would think to this but one of the friendly waiters brought us a little shot glass each to sample it first. I’ve tried salted drinks before and find there’s a very fine line between it adding to a drink and ruining it. Thankfully, this erred on the right side of salty and we ordered a jug to share.
The list of starters, impressively, was made up almost entirely of vegetarian dishes ranging from £2-£3.50. To start we shared two veggie starters (I love it when I can convince someone to do that with me). We opted for the mirza ghasemi and dolmeh barg mow. The mirza ghasemi was a warm dip made from grilled aubergines, tomatoes, eggs, spices and garlic served with naan bread. The dip was very tasty indeed with the garlic really coming through, yet not overpowering. I wasn’t sure about how the eggs would work (I tend to avoid them) but they were mixed in thoroughly and barely evident aside from giving it a thicker texture I suspect. The naan bread was not really like Indian naan bread; instead it was light and fluffy without the butteryness. The dolmeh (stuffed vine leaves) had a simple stuffing of rice and tarragon and were delicious. It’s worth noting that the menu in the restaurant is slightly different to the one on Darvish’s website – the dolmeh on the online menu contain ground lamb but the ones they were featured on the menu during my visit were veggie.
Thoroughly impressed with the starters, we awaited our mains with anticipation. The mains are all served with either saffron rice or naan and originally we ordered ours with the bread. Observing this, the waiter gave us the option of changing this part of the order later on, as our starter had been served with naan, for which we were very grateful!
I’d ordered the Ghormeh Sabzi – one of an impressive five or six vegetarian main course options. This dish was made up of mushrooms, kidney beans and whole dried lime in a thick sauce with pungent herbs, most notably fenugreek. The flavour really was unique, unlike anything I’ve eaten before. The saffron rice was gently fragrant, cooked to a perfect buttery texture. At £6 I thought it was very reasonable too. My boyfriend was equally impressed with his main of Ghaymeh Bademjan, a dish of lamb, aubergine and split peas. We decided against dessert as we were too full but there were a couple of appealing options so next time I’ll save room.
Returning: I can’t wait to return and try some more of the dishes. I suspect this will become a new regular!
You can find out more about Darvish and watch Jamie Oliver’s visit on their website here.
Have you eaten at any great Persian restaurants? Let me know below!