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Paktoonkhwa Restaurant (London)

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Paktoonkhwa Restaurant (London)

JFores | Jan 3, 2012 07:39 AM

Hello all,

I've recently moved just off of Green St. Luckily enough I was meeting Limster for dinner the day that I moved in and I used the time before he arrived to scout out how Green St has changed in the last year or two. Oh has it changed! A stretch that I only went to for Queen's Market, a particularly good Kebabish and a Bangladeshi run Indian place that served so-so Bangladeshi specialties on weekends has become a cornucopia of South Asian delights. Two small indoor malls with chaat places, numerous other snack shops, a Mauritian restaurant, a Hyderabadi restaurant and various other businesses (which I'll be writing about in the coming days) now line what is possibly the single most exciting "Asian" high street in London. Further up Green St towards Forest Gate is where two North West Pakistani Pashtun restaurants sit diagonally opposite one another. This post concentrates on the considerably spiffier, brighter and livelier one which is Paktoonkhwa Restaurant.

Simply entering this place is a bit of an experience. I wouldn't call it "authentic" or dazzling. Instead we'll say it's interesting and fun. The majority of the restaurant including the downstairs "family booths" is covered in carpets and pillows. Aside from a couple of tables, everyone is sitting and eating on the floor. The owner is from Peshawar and the staff are a mixed bag of Afghan and Pakistani Pashtuns. The menu, however, is remarkably Afghan in its leanings and spicing. A place I had written about a few years ago on here called New Khybar UK served similar dishes, but their spicing just came off as more Pakistani. The Kabuli pulao was more strongly spiced and the naan was specifically North West Pakistani (very thin and flaked with almonds.) The food here is both grander and simpler. Everything I've had so far has been very good, though some dishes may seem bland if you're not actively eating the lamb fat along with the meat.

The menu includes two types of pulao, Kabuli and Mancha. The Kabuli pulao comes with ham hock sized chunks of lamb buried in some of the best rice I've ever had in a restaurant in sometime. The dish has clearly been prepared in one pot with the fat of the lamb and an immense amount of ghee providing the primary cooking liquid for the rice. The lamb is extremely rich and fatty, but that's where the flavor is. Sweet threads of carrot and sultanas brighten up the dish. The Mancha pulao is basically the same thing with a whole lamb shank. Both are very good but I actually preferred the Mancha pulao as I thought the meat was a bit juicier and more flavorful. The only thing both dishes left me wanting was the layer of crispy fried onions that New Khybar UK covered their pulao in.

I've had chapli kebab on both visits and they were both consistently excellent. Their grill man knows what he's doing. Thicker than usual chapli kebabs were cooked fresh to order and they definitely had more of a "Pakistani" spice to them. Whole coriander seeds are littered throughout the patties and provide a flavorful and textural brightness to what is otherwise another example of seriously good lamb. I ate the kebabs with their Afghan naan which is nothing short of massive (particularly for a pound) and comes skewered on a stand which keeps your meter of bread safely suspended above the carpet. Good naan in general and surprisingly good garlic naan that the owner talked me into on my second visit.

The only stew or curry dish I've managed to try so far was during the first meal with Limster. We got the dum pukt as per the recommendation of the owner. What came was a pile of slow cooked (5 hrs+ according to the owner) lamb with nearly whole potatoes. The entire dish seemed to have been cooked almost entirely in the fat of the lamb. I initially thought it was a bit bland but when I began grabbing mixed bites of meat and fat with my naan before dipping it into the pool of lamb fat things changed. The intense but pleasant flavor of lamb characterizes this entire dish. It was also even tastier reheated the next day.

I'll update this when I have a chance to go there again.

Both of my meals were 20-25 pounds for two people. Prices are not particularly low, but the portions are terrifyingly large.

76 Green Street
Forest Gate
London
E7 8JG

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