Complimented on the flavoursome tomatoes in a portion of fattoush, Suha Holmyard, co-owner of this modest yet lavishly attired Iraqi restaurant, smiled and said simply: ‘We choose’. Similar care was evident in other meze: smoky baba ganoush as soft as an aubergine fool; houmous smooth and subtly bitter; fuul medames with tang and bite. Falafel were plump, perfectly fried discs.
Next, an Iraqi main of beef guss apparently included tahini and cumin, although pepper and citrus were the loudest notes. An accompanying mound of rice was so light it might have blown away in a draught. Köfte-like lamb meatballs came with chunks of potato in a rich curried tomato sauce.
Lebanese labels are highlights of the wine list, and Arabian cardamom coffee made a wonderful, aromatic end to the meal, the spice seeming to redouble the caffeine’s effects.
The interior is heady too, inspired by Babylon: billowing, Bedouin tent-effect ceiling; urns and sand-coloured walls with lion shapes in relief; a huge dresser so ornate it might house religious relics. Yet despite the escapist decor, Mesopotamia’s food still provides ample distraction – as it would even if served on the forecourt of the petrol station outside.