London rivals LA (sometimes called ‘Tehrangeles’) for highest number of Persian expats. Of the 80,000-odd Iranians resident in the UK more than half live in London, which explains the huge choice of restaurants serving gormeh sabzi, zereshk polo and fesenjan: traditional dishes that my Persian expat mother used to cook me at home in Newcastle.
During the ’60s and ’70s it was fashionable for oil-rich Iranians to buy holiday apartments in places like Knightsbridge and Mayfair, but UK-Iranian relations have been chequered since 1979. The Iranian embassy here was the site of a siege in 1980, and in 2011 the British government closed it entirely. Things are improving: the embassy has reopened and the lifting of Western sanctions has prompted British Airways to resume daily flights from Heathrow to Tehran. But there are also a number of places right here in London that will transport you straight to a Tehrani living room. Natasha Wynarczyk
Did you know? Iran has its own answer to Banksy: Mehdi Ghadyanloo. Last year one of his murals appeared on the side of Village Underground in Shoreditch.
Natasha’s favourite Persian spots in London
Watch the chefs bake lavash (flatbread) right in front of you at Ariana in Mile End, then pop out the back for a double apple shisha and a pot of mint tea.
If you’re thinking of hosting a Persian dinner party at home, Persepolis in Peckham is a must for ingredients, from barberries to dried apricots. It also has a small café area where you can dine like a shah for less than a tenner.
Queensway’s Little Persia isn’t just a restaurant – the busy bar serves cocktails until 2am.
The Iranian Association offers advice to Iranian expats and puts on arts and culture events throughout the year.
Simurgh is in Covent Garden, but it’s no tourist trap. Even my mum rates the duck and pomegranate stew, and she thinks nobody can cook Persian food like she can.
The best of Iranian London, according to you
‘There are probably more Persian restaurants in London than in Tehran! Each has its own character and attracts a different group of people, unless (like me) you want to try them all.’ Aliboy F via Facebook
‘Alborz in Olympia is great: simple dishes, authentic, lovely staff. Though the best place to eat, of course, is a Persian dinner party.’ Roxana A via www.timeout.com
‘Kish in Maida Vale always brings me back home. The atmosphere at Little Persia in Queensway is also precious.’ Yeganeh A via Facebook
‘Hands down, Behesht is the best restaurant in London.’ Joanna M via Facebook
‘I tend to go obsessively to Apadana, which is one of the oldest Persian restaurants in London, plus Colbeh on Connaught Street (Lancaster Gate), Patogh (off Edgware Road) and Galleria (which is just off Marylebone).’ Zachary L via www.timeout.com
‘With its outdoor seating and shisha right into Mile End Park, Ariana reminds me of Kan in the north of Tehran. Best in the summer months!’ Mehrdad K via Facebook
‘Sufi restaurant in Askew Road is very nice. They do the best dough in all of London at the very least.’ Farshad D via Facebook
‘Alounak/Sadaf on Westbourne Grove. Termeh on Canfield Gardens.’ @PedTheBedHead via Twitter
‘Persian Palace in West Ealing for some massive cheap grub. Anar Persian Kitchen in Ladbroke Grove for date night.’ @salicinnamon via Twitter
‘My dad used to run Yas in Olympia in the ’90s (Time Out even awarded it ‘best Middle Eastern restaurant’ one year), so he is very particular about where he eats. For kebab, we go to Alborz – it may not look much but their koobideh is the best! I would also recommend Kish in Maida Vale, and you also have to mention Hafez in Bayswater, which has been around since the early ’80s.’ Daniel K-Z via Facebook
‘Pars, a new Persian fast food restaurant which has been recently opened in Surbiton. Their special burgers are awesome.’ Far Z via Facebook