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The Persia Grillhouse

Jonathan Schofield contemplates the relationship between death and food at a sweet little Persian restaurant

Written by . Published on November 10th 2008.


The Persia Grillhouse

I last went to the Persia Grillhouse about four years ago and loved it. A group of us went back over the weekend and knew it for the very first time.

In other words we found it still a cracker in terms of the flavour to value ratio, with a few things on the menu we hadn’t tasted before.

The place is a curiosity. It’s a small family run restaurant specialising in - naturally enough - Persian cuisine. Or Iranian, as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, might prefer. It’s also a bring your own bottle (BYOB) place with 10% corkage.

The oddity factor is increased by its location opposite Southern Cemetery in Chorlton.

From our window seat we got a splendid view of the city’s biggest necropolis. I mused to my companions on how this should make the enjoyment of the food more intense. After all, if chowing down is one of the great sensual pleasures of life, then staring at death through a window whilst eating underlines how rich in experience our brief term on earth is. We’re the quick, and they’re the dead.

“What are you on about?” they all said.

Maybe Halloween had gone to my head.

What didn’t go to any of our heads, until later, was alcohol.

The BYOB policy of the Persia Grillhouse can be very good for you. We drank Persian tea at 60p a cup or £3 a pot. This comes like an Indian chai, carrying with it a subtle infusion of herbs and spices which gives it a gentle lift. It’s one of those food and drink experiences which feels healthy: gets you as fresh as those models washing their hair under Alpine waterfalls in shampoo ads.

As for the food, the pick of the starters were the Kashk Bademjan at £3.90, the Kookoo Sabzi at £2.80 and the Persian meat balls at £3.90.

The first was a lush mix of mulched aubergines, spices, onions, mint and Kashk, a type of whey made with curdled milk and cereals. It was wonderful, light but rammed with all sorts of delightful flavours.

The Kookoo was a revelation too: cooked like a Spanish omelette but with dill, spinach, leek and parsley instead of potatoes and onions. The result gave the thing a peculiar racing green shade. This didn’t detract from the moreish taste, which was a combination of all the assembled elements inside a structure as a light as a zeppelin frame.

The meatballs were like Spanish albondigas with mince meat and herbs but here the departure came with the use of prunes, which added fruit to the dish. Bathed in a herby and spicy stock these were excellent as well.

Interesting that relationship with Spain. After all Persia and the Middle East had already long fallen to the whirlwind expansion of Islam by the time Spain became Al-Andalus. As with Spanish language, art and architecture, the seven hundred year Islamic colonisation of much of Iberia evidently influences today’s food in the country.

Moving to the mains there seemed less originality in evidence as we settled down to various grills of lamb and chicken. A few specialities kept up the flavour thrills though.

The Baghalli pollo with lamb (£9.90) was a lovely, flaking dish of lamb with strong flavours and a winsome consistency in a sauce which had to be ladled over accompanying rice which had been all greened up with dill. Wonderful.

The Barg lamb (£8) was more predictable in flavours, but carried the distinctive lightness of touch which categorises this style of cuisine. The description of the dish told of how the ‘tender lamb fillet’ had been, ‘beaten flat’ - the poor sod. Still in a step away from the usual, the brushing of saffron gave the taste extra interest.

A Khoresh Fesenjan (£9.90) was better, a winning combination of chicken pieces cooked with ground walnuts, onions, spices and apparently, pomegranate puree. "If you are cold, very good to keep warm," said the utterly charming hostess.

Dessert came as either dull ice cream (£3) or very good baklava (£2.90 for four pieces). Baklava is an edible hat which can be eaten off the face from the inside. Ok, I fib, it’s a species of incredibly, sweet, mini-pastries from the Middle East filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey.

And that was that. A perfectly healthy, perfectly filling, delightfully tasty entrée to a busy Saturday evening. The Persia Grillhouse is a little star.

As we left I again pointed out, with a nod to Southern Cemetery, that the meal reminds us that this ‘isn’t a rehearsal’ and ‘that we’re a long time dead’.

I had to get a taxi to the next place on my own.

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away

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12 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

rosieNovember 10th 2008.

Present company excluded,I presume,JTB?

rosieNovember 10th 2008.

JTB,unless your advances include an offering of carrot cake you haven't got a hope xx

JohnNovember 10th 2008.

Went here last night. Loved the place, proper family friendly, had a giggle at pictures and ate well and came away feeling worthy as I forget it's a bring your own place.

George CleggNovember 10th 2008.

I was just about to say I love this place and it's easy going food. I think the staff are lovely too. Then I read Don't Eat Here, maybe he's one of the dead the writer amusingly talks about.

DONT EAT HERE!!!!November 10th 2008.

I had the unfortunate luck of trying this hole last week, the food was probably the worst i have eaten and puts Didsbury/Chorlton to shame! And as for the arrogant owner, waste your money at yor own risk!

johnthebriefNovember 10th 2008.

This is what I read Mancon for, to find out about (apparently) good restaurans I've never heard of.One favour though, could you give me (and perhaps Avo) a week's head start before you publish these gems for the world at large, and so cause all the oiks and grockles to descend on the place?

johnthebriefNovember 10th 2008.

Really Rosie, you spurn my advances then expect consideration?

GordoNovember 10th 2008.

So, Schofield, eating in the dead center of manchester eh? I see you are still using a 1976 polaroid camera.

AvoNovember 10th 2008.

I totally agree JTB! Having said that, I still haven't tried Red Chilli or Red n Hot yet and thats on my doorstep!

AnonymousNovember 10th 2008.

This place is a gem, the food is interesting and tasty, and much better value than many of the mediocre euro chain restaurants in Manchester. The waitress was happy to recommend items on the menu and generally efficient. The place felt homely and intimate.

sharonNovember 10th 2008.

We are slowly visiting all the Persian restaurants around Manchester, as we have realised this is the food we like, so much so we are now cooking this food at home. This the best place we have eaten so far, and been back 3 times now! Seating is a little on the rustic side, but the food is to die for!

AvoNovember 10th 2008.

Just had a look at the menu on their website. It looks good but not sure where Falafel with Hash Browns and Onion Rings belongs on a Persian menu.

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