Opening its doors in Soho is Iranian-inspired restaurant Berenjak, founded by Kian Samyani who previously served as the head chef at Gymkhana in Mayfair. Samyani’s first solo project, Berenjak is influenced by the style of the homey, hole-in-the-wall kebab houses in Tehran, but with an English twist. The focus of the cuisine will re-create signature Iranian dishes, but uses seasonal British produce to give it a fresh perspective. Named after the brightly-coloured, crunchy toasted rice eaten as a snack at funfairs in Iran, Berenjak highlights the importance of sharing food with friends and family, enjoying each dish until every bite is gone.
“Berenjak was dreamt up occasionally over two years with Karam Sethi (of JKS) while working on Brigadiers,” Kian Samyani tells Something Curated. He continues, “We both agreed very early on after meeting that it was difficult to name a consistently great Iranian restaurant in London that ticked all of the boxes when it comes to food, drink, atmosphere and location. Thus Berenjak was born and what followed was a series of hypotheticals, concept ideas, menu drafts and tastings, till an opportunity arose to actually make this thing real, and that’s where we are today!”
Highlighting methods of Iranian barbecuing, using tandoors and charcoal grills, the restaurant will be serving up a variety of different grilled kebabs as well as sharing style mazeh. Some of the most enticing items on the menu include Kashk E Bademjoon, a coal-cooked aubergine with whey, walnuts, dried mint and onions, and the Khoresht E Zereshk, a khoresht made with guinea fowl legs and stewed with saffron, onion, potatoes, and barberries. Not to be forgotten are the delicious sides such as pickled chilies topped with malt vinegar, mint, and angelica, as well as Khiar Ba Dalaar, made from baby cucumbers and spiced with coriander and fermented mint.
“I would say our offering is traditional but it’s elevated using better produce and care while cooking,” Samyani tells us. “Persian food however is subjective to each (Iranian) individual, dishes can vary from family to family and from region to region so this isn’t us saying, ‘Hey! This is how this dish should be made in the whole of Iran!’ It’s us saying, ‘Welcome, take a seat, let us feed you some of these amazing dishes I’ve had growing up, we hope you come to love them like I have.’ The cuisine is simple, it’s produce led, the food takes time to prepare and to cook and it’s from the heart and we’ve just tried to recreate some nostalgia in a fun and accessible environment and hope that translates to our guests when they dine with us,” he explains.
Berenjak boasts a diverse and impressive drinks menu, like their traditional Sharbat, which is a sweet beverage made from Persian fruit coridals infused with sparkling water, swizzled with fresh herbs. The restaurant’s interior offers somewhat of an immersive cultural experience, as diners enjoy the unique flavours of Iranian cuisine in the comfort of the candlelit, exposed-brick wall dining room and Persian-inspired mosaic lined floors.
Berenjak – 27 Romilly St, Soho, London W1D 5AL
Words by Jane Herz | Feature image via Berenjak