I’ve always loved taking a trip into the unknown where food is concerned and last week Central Asian cuisine was the focus of my curiosity. My friend recommended this place to me a while ago, it’s a restaurant called SamarQand near Oxford Street (named after a province in Uzbekistan), they specialise in fine Russian, Georgian, Kazakh, and Uzbek cuisine amongst others.
We were greeted by friendly staff and seated at a large table in the middle of the restaurant not too far away from a full size sculpture of a horse. This was a great random addition to the elegant decor of the place and immediately provided the focus for our conversation (‘why the long face?’ etc….).
We ordered some green tea to begin with (pre beers) and were brought some fresh out of the oven Lipioshka – a traditional bread from Uzbekistan cooked in a tandoori clay oven, this came with a delicious garlicy cream cheese dip.
It’s worth taking a peek into the open kitchen to see the chefs at work on your way past, you can see the Lipioshka bread being cooked inside the tandoori oven in the same way as naan bread, very interesting to watch (or at least I think so anyway!).
I ordered Kharcho soup as a starter, this is a substantial Georgian soup containing lamb, rice, cherry plum purée, chopped walnuts, paprika and coriander. There were huge rustic chunks of lamb hiding underneath the surface, tender from being boiled slowly for hours giving it a divine meaty flavour.
My friend ordered these garlic prawns which were enormous and perfectly cooked in a marinade of garlicy goodness, served with a rocket salad.
For the main course my friend recommended trying ‘Manti’ – a type of large steamed dumplings from Kazakhstan served with dips, I went for the lamb and pumpkin filled Astani Manti. They’re much larger than their oriental counterparts so five of these bad boys will pretty much fill you up, they come with a tomato based dip and a yoghurt and dill dip.
Seriously these dumplings are to die for, the filling is ground lamb spiced with black pepper and herbs, with finely chopped pumpkin giving it a touch of sweetness.
For dessert I went for a slice of traditional Russian honey cake (Medovnik), layered and drizzled all over with honey, it was sublime.
This is a great place to go for a special meal, it’s best to get down there early during the week as they do a deal from Mon-Thurs between 4pm and 7pm, 2 courses and a glass of wine for £19.95, or 3 courses and a glass of wine for £24.95. The menu is varied and full of unusual delights that you won’t find in many other places around London which makes for a unique experience. I already know what I’m going for next time: Russian Borscht soup; and Plov (an Uzbek dish in which rice is cooked in a seasoned meaty broth), mmmyum! The nearest tube station is Bond Street, go check it out!
SamarQand Restaurant & Bar, 18 Thayer Street, London, W1U 3JY