London-Iranian aims to put Persian food on top table

Tue Dec 17, 2013 9:24am EST
 
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By Robin Pomeroy

LONDON (Reuters) - London restaurateur Bijan Behzadi wants to show the world Persian cuisine is more than just mounds of rice and kebabs and says food from his native Iran should be taken as seriously as French or Italian.

Most Persian restaurants outside Iran cater for a diaspora craving a taste of home: above all chelo kebab - literally "rice and grilled meat" - the ubiquitous comfort food akin to fish and chips to the British or mac 'n' cheese for Americans.

At least one restaurant in London also serves "kaleh pache" - sheep's "head and foot" boiled in its own broth - a brunch favorite for anyone who enjoys a steaming plate of brain, tongue and eyes.

It is a love-it-or-hate it concoction that divides Iranians and makes no pretensions to being haute cuisine.

"London has been transformed in the last 20 years. It's the best place in the world for food now," Behzadi told Reuters in his restaurant in a leafy back street of London's Maida Vale.

"But most of the Iranian restaurants haven't changed. We like to eat a lot and pay a little."

Having run a succession of Italian restaurants and worked with London-based Michelin-starred chef Giorgio Locatelli, Behzadi opened Kateh in 2011 to show off the regional subtleties of food from Iran, a vast country that stretches from Pakistan to Turkey with snow-capped mountains and scorching deserts.

"Iranians, unlike the French or Italians, don't have the familiarity of regional food," Behzadi said.   Continued...