The beauty of the pop-up restaurant is the unknown. You don’t know what you will be eating and or whom you will be dining with. Devised by Oliver Peyton to unite the “best elements of London’s dining scene”, Friday night saw the National Café of the National Gallery turn into a Persian Paradise, as self-taught chef Sabrina Ghayour delivered a sumptuous feast of exotic flavours, in the latest of Peyton’s Friday Night Socials.
Ushered into The Trafalgar room, the night began with some pre-supper cocktails and canapés. It was here that we had the first glimpse of our dining companions. An eclectic mix ranging from early twenties to late fifties, even before alcohol had the chance to lubricate the chat, strangers were already conversing like old friends. Unlike a normal restaurant, where it’s all about the food the pop-up is also about the people – it’s a social event.
A fresh apple-laced cocktail cleansed the pallet in preparation for the first culinary gems of the evening: balsamic tinged bruschetta, juicy individual meatballsand a pistachio gazpacho. Tasting as good as it smelt, this shot of soup set the tone for the meal to come – inventive, unusual and delicious.
Sabrina’s Persian Potion Cocktail began with food, wine and conversation flowing. Ghayour was born in Iran and supper clubs at her home in London have featured in all the nationals – this provided us with a menu that did not disappoint.
Served in a Mezze style, a banquet of dishes lathered the table with vats ofMaast-o-Khiar (yoghurt with cucumber, raisins, fresh mint, dried mint and rose petal powder) and flat breads bordered by plates of Tabbouleh (Bulgar wheat, parsley, spring onions, pomegranate and lemon dressing). Fresh and not overly filling, both dishes worked delightfully well together.
Cleared by attentive staff, the starters were replaced with mains at which point arrived, another dining companion: the Great British Menu judge, Matthew Fort. After a busy day filming and eating (eight courses), Fort didn’t make the most of Sabrina’s feast but provided our table with even greater levels of entertainment. While devouring the mouth-wateringly good Khoresh-e-Zardaloo (Lamb neck stew) and Joojeh Kabab (lemon and harissa roasted poussins) we were transported to South Africa and Sicily, to vivid tales of voyages and vineyards.
A pudding of spiced carrot, pistachio and almond cake served with rosewater cream and an anecdote on the birth of Fort’s career rounded the night off with style. A wonderful setting, exceptional food, riveting company and all for £25, Sabrina Ghayour’s Persian extravaganza is an absolute steal.
Sabrina Ghayour at The National Café: 48/60