Reviewed by Shifa
After a reluctant, tiring, cold, sequin infested trip to Green Street for Indian clothes shopping, the time had finally come to replenish our energy and have dinner. We passed a number of typical rice and curry restaurants as well as a kebab shop whose tag line was ‘this is probably the best kebab in the world’ – interesting and provocative marketing ploy! We had also passed a few Afghani restaurants on the drive in, which had stuck in our minds which we embarked on our mission to try and find a good place to eat.
However, after walking only a couple of metres, partly – ok mostly – due to the bitter cold and my mistake of forgetting my gloves, scarf and hat we chose the one of the first restaurants we saw: Pakhtoonkhwa . I was quite excited about eating here because I have never tasted Afghan cuisine before and also…I was out of the cold!
The restaurant was small and comforting and we were luckily able to get the last table for four because around five to ten minutes after we had arrived about ten people walked in and had to wait to be seated. I really liked the traditional floor seating they had on one side of the restaurant, which I felt gave it a really homely and cute vibe. The decor was not anything special, an ordinary, small family restaurant with quite uncomfortable seating and ‘traditional’ wall hangings.
I have heard that Afghani and Persian cuisine are known for their rice dishes so I was dying to try something like that, but alas my sister and mother had other plans! We decided to order the Afghani Mix Grill with Naan (we chose Afghani naan) with Tarka Daal and Peshwari naan (my favourite!). It did take a while (probably 15-20 minutes) to take our order and with three hungry, shopped out women…this was not the best thing.
The food also took about the same amount of time to arrive (15-20 mins) but in the meantime, a plate of salad and chutney was put on the table to ‘pick at’ or ‘snack’ on (not sure) but since we were all now starving – this helped… a little! The Afghani naan was hung on an upright naan stand (if that is what it was called) and the peshwari naan in a small plate. The portions of the main meals looked quite small for three people to share but hey…we were so wrong. The grilled meat (platter of lamb taikka (kebabs x4), lamb chops (4), chicken tikka pieces (4) and Seekh kebab (4) smelt great (mouth watering in fact). In all honesty the food looked ordinary and what I would have expected from the type of restaurant, the taste however was a different matter.
The meat, particularly the lamb chops and taikka were beautiful – they were freshly made, tender, juicy and melted in my mouth. The flavours were subtle (the spices did not over power the taste of the meat) but at the same time they were packed full of flavour. The hints of burnt meat also added an extra sticky and crispy complexity to the meat – all I can say is that the meat was to die for. The Peshawari naan was also the best I have ever tasted (completely calorific – I could smell the wafts of melted butter poured on the top of the naan) it was sweet, crispy and I could taste the desiccated coconut and raisins. There was a decent amount of filling in the naan (thank god!), which you do not tend to get in other places. The daal also was also had a subtlety spiced flavour (tasted like good home-made daal) which complemented the naan and meat perfectly. I was a very happy camper!
Verdict: I would most definitely go again
Despite the long wait to be served and to receive our food I really enjoyed the food (I can still remember the taste even now!). The owner came and spoke to us about her dishes and how she makes every meat dish from scratch, uses fresh meat and green chilli instead red chilli powder which what is used in traditional Afghani cooking – which I found really interesting. The price for the quality of food was also blooming marvellous!
Ambience: laid back, family restaurant
Value for money: most definitely
(mixed grill (included afghani naan), peshwari naan and tarka daal= 20.97 with a 12.5% service charge)
Nearest tube: Upton Park
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Shifa has been interested in food for as long as she can remember. She enjoys finding new places to eat, either expensive and chic, homely or a hole in the wall that serves amazing grub. Nothing upsets her more than bad food and long nails.