Faanoos is a great local restaurant – cheerful, cheap and bustling even midweek. It’s also an oasis of colour on an insipid stretch of the Upper Richmond Road: sit facing the windows and you’ll look out on stagnant traffic and furniture showrooms; face inwards and your eye alights on straw-matted walls hung with Persian rugs and unframed paintings of bearded merchants, a ceiling strung with coloured lanterns (faanoos) and a turquoise clay oven. All seats were taken on our last visit, but none of our fellow diners was Iranian – a geographical issue (few expats stray south of the river), but one that has allowed standards to slip slightly over the years.
A starter of stuffed vine leaves lacked texture and had the limp outer warmth of a dish hastily reheated, while a plate heaped with sabzi khordan (mixed fresh herbs) was bereft of the all-important coriander. Mains were better: joojeh (chicken kebab) was suitably aromatic from the lemon and saffron marinade, the accompanying grilled tomato nicely blackened, and ghorm-e sabzi (lamb and herb stew) was generous in size, but lacking citrus kick due to insufficient dried limes. Still, at these prices – and with decent house wine at £10.95 per bottle – complaints are rare.