Reena Patel tastes a twist on Uzbek cuisine
“Everything I have heard about the beauty of Samarkand is true, except that it is even more beautiful than I could have imagined.” These were the words of Alexander the Great – describing Uzbekistan’s second largest city and crossroad of culture, prospering from its location on the Silk Road trade route between China and the Mediterranean.
And here we were, on a busy Friday night in the west end part of London, ready to sample a unique twist on the roots of Uzbek cuisine and all of its influenced flavours at the newly opened eponymous restaurant.
Once through the large wood-carved double doors, we stepped into a calm spa-like oasis dressed with cerulean-blue hexagonal wall tiles and decadent bronze metal touches. We entered down the stairs to be met with a buzzy ambience and more of the same charming décor.
With practically every type of world cuisine on our doorstep, we were intrigued to taste the menu. Primed with the explanation that the dishes have been designed to suit a mix of western palates, we tried small plates of tangy pickles including deliciously spicy chilli peppers, baklajon – Uzbek style smoked aubergine caviar which translated into wonderfully fiery garlic infused aubergine dip topped with pomegranate and a warm mushroom medley tart with broad beans and peas.
Already impressed with the presentation and variety of flavours, we ordered the shashlik – succulent pieces of skewered meat or fish flamed over the robata grill. Our favourites were the yellow fin tuna with wild rice and Wagyu beef served with truffle shavings.
For more authentic, traditional flavours, try the sharing dish for two called the Samarkand plov, the national recipe that’s passed on from generation to generation. Beef short rib is slowly cooked with hand cut carrots, onions, chickpeas, barberries and rice and then garnished with pomegranate and spring onions. There’s also the chicken tabaka – pan-fried marinated pieces of cut baby chicken.
If you’ve got a sweet tooth and like baked cakes, try the cinnamon dusted baklava cake with a dollop of rum vanilla ice-cream to finish your meal. There’s also a bar area tucked away behind the main restaurant concourse, with shelves filled with herb, fruit and spice infused vodka to take the customary shot during the courses, as well as a list of cocktails to boot.
With a hint of the city of Samarkand within us, we look forward to seeing some more traditional flavours crop up on the menu next time we visit, but still leaving space for some of the existing favourites.
Samarkand – Where and How?
33 Charlotte St
Opposite the Rathbone Hotel
For more information, or to make a reservation, visit https://www.samarkand.london/ or call 0203 871 4969
See more of Samakand in the gallery below