My husband and I went to Mohsen (152 Warwick Road) for Saturday lunch. I must credit Howler and Simon M. for their impassioned recommendations. This was our second delicious test of chowhound advice in London (the first outing was to St John). We are believers! Cue music.
[Note: After the meal I rushed home and consulted New Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies by Najmieh Batmanglij to compare what we ate to her recipes. I dont know if other chowhounds often cook at home, but we do, and we love cookbook recommendations.]
We were pleased to find a bustling, but not overcrowded, simple place. No wait for a table for two and we received a cheery greeting from the staff. The room has a few pieces of art on the walls, but is pretty much a basic white box (which is fine with me). In the back, however, there is a indoor garden room, which has some atmospheric elements like plants and colorful textiles and a fat little yellow bird in a cage. When we go with a group, we might try for one of the large tables in back.
The advantage of being up front was we were able to watch our cooked-to-order nan being rolled out and baked in the bread oven. Cooked-to-order bread: I misted up with happiness. The bread guy dipped the dough in a bowl of sesame seeds, rolled it quite flat, and stretched it over what looked like a small pillow. He then opened the bread oven and slapped the pillow-with-dough against the wall of the oven. Less than one minute later, he served us the toasty, crisp but pliable bread. Yum.
Service was very prompt and friendly. We shared an appetizer kashk o bademjan (I use the spelling from Mohsens menu), which is a dip/spread of roasted eggplant, walnuts, mint, garlic, and other spices garnished with whey. We ate this with the nan. Just that dip and bread combo was worth the trip. We forgot to order the sabzi (fresh herbs in a bowl with feta) on the side; we wont forget again.
I went standard and had chelo koubideh (ground lamb kabab with basmati rice and a grilled tomato). The meat was moist, tender, and seasoned just right. The rice was perfectly prepared, buttery but not greasy, with the saffron-rice garnish. The grilled tomato didnt do much for me (but it never does). In a separate dish, I was served a raw white onion. A bite of raw onion was exceptional with the soft-textured lightly spiced lamb. For ₤7 I was given two generous kababs and a large amount of rice. Unusually for me, I couldnt finish the plate.
My husband had the Saturday daily special, baghali polo ba mahicheh, which was a large lamb shank cooked in a saffron/turmeric sauce with saffron rice with fava beans and a lot of dill. Wonderful to look at, even better to eat. The lamb and rice were both, again, perfectly cooked, with a complex interplay of meat, fava bean, dill, and more spices, probably the house advieh. This Fred Flintstone portion of food was ₤9.
After the waiter cleared our plates, he wiped the table before asking for our dessert order. We may have been sitting at a plastic table with no tablecloth, but it reminded me of a French waiter scooping crumbs off linen. Charming. Quite satisfied without dessert, we sat back with Iranian teas. Mrs. Batmanglij (of the cookbook) recommends a 50/50 mix of Darjeeling and Earl Gray to reproduce the taste of Iranian tea. The tea at Mohsen, however, also tasted of cardamom.
We took the bus home and I consulted my cookbook to plan future visits. If you have never been, go. If you have been, what should we eat next time?