Iranian restaurants seldom do glamour. Most forsake frills for the simple warmth of a family dining room, catering to a national belief that eating out is a poor substitute for dining at home. Not so with Chella, which retains the artful bistro feel of its predecessor, Brit-fusion restaurant Gravy. Champagne bottles cool in ice buckets at a glittering mirrored bar; bejewelled mirrors and framed prints of ballerinas adorn the walls; and the chunky wooden tables and eccentric upholstered chairs are bathed in candlelight.
Nor was the food strikingly authentic: a starter of aash-e reshteh (noodle and mung bean soup) was pleasingly thick but over-salted; another of kashk-e bademnjaan (aubergine and garlic mashed with whey) was bland by comparison. Only the delicate herb omelette known as kookoo sabzi was spot on, bursting with fragrance and light as a soufflé.
Mains were equally erratic: minced lamb koobideh and chicken joojeh kebabs were succulent, but the latter needed longer in the traditional saffron marinade; ghorm-e sabzi (lamb stew with vegetables and dried limes) featured overcooked meat and was similarly over-seasoned.
Despite all that, Chella has clearly struck a chord: service was superb, and the place was packed on our Thursday night visit, although few customers appeared to be Iranian. Given the live flamenco Sundays, extensive wine list and absence of Middle Eastern hygiene hoses in the toilets, that may all be part of the plan.