Many Iranian restaurants strive to emulate the informality of the dinner parties at which so much of their nation’s cuisine is served. Not so with Mahdi, a sprawling space akin to an oriental food hall, its arching brick walls hung with carpets, its shelves cluttered with colourful trinkets. A stuffed peacock keeps watch over a fountain in one corner. Service tends to be swift and unsmiling, and the tables are crammed so close together that at peak times it’s hard not to feel your conversation merging with those on either side of you.
For all that, Mahdi remains one of London’s most popular Iranian restaurants thanks to the quality of its cooking and the diversity of its menu. Don’t miss its less commonly found starters, such as ash-e reshteh, a smoky bean and noodle soup thickened with whey. Mains are gargantuan (taking home a doggie bag is standard practice) and cover a range of grilled chicken and lamb kebabs as well as stews and dishes such as baghali polo ba mahicheh: rice flavoured with dill and broad beans, accompanied by a melt-in-the-mouth lamb shank.