Review: Samarkand (Uzbek cuisine) London

Samarkand: the name itself evokes feelings of the faraway and the exotic. When we heard about a new restaurant featuring food from Uzbekistan in the very central London location of Fitzrovia, it sparked our interest straight away.

Upon entering via a blue tiled corridor and staircase, we were immediately blown away by the lavish scale of this subterranean restaurant. The atmosphere is exciting and buzzing, and glamorously dressed people all around seem to be having a good time.

IMG_2531
View of the main dining space with the bar and kitchen at the back

The interiors are spacious and opulent – blue mosaic tiles, copper cage lighting, columns encased within wood carved panels, lush upholstery and curtains, and celestial signage depicting symbols from astronomy.

IMG_1682
Ceiling lights
IMG_1702
Wood carvings on columns

Wall maps of the Uzbek region and the Spice Route further intrigued us about the food we were about to explore.

IMG_1679
Drinks cabinet (Photo:@kwjevans)
IMG_1680
Well designed bathrooms with copper sinks and blue mosaic tile splash backs
IMG_1681
Drinks cabinet with stunning display of decanters (Photo:@kwjevans)

We started the evening with a special gin martini for me. This was a woody and robust concoction made of Monkey 47 gin, Elderflower and homemade Vermouth and arrived proudly in an attractive copper martini glass.

IMG_2475
My impressive Martini

Husband ordered the Khiva Spritz, which mixes Campari infused with genmaicha tea, homemade purple sparkling vermouth and Portobello road gin.

IMG_2479
Khiva Spritz – what a divine name!

Keen to try a bit of everything, we ordered the Somsa (£4) from the small plates section. These were small bites of handmade puff pastry parcels filled with delicious and moist minced meat (beef and lamb). The pastry was thin, light and flaky and the filling was fatty and flavourful. This was utterly satisfying and could be a great cold weather food, thoroughly enjoyable.

IMG_2514
Somsa
IMG_1686
Somsa (Photo:@kwjevans)

We also ordered a Manti (£8 for 3) – traditional Uzbek handmade dumplings. These comfort dumplings came steamed, accompanied by a spicy, savoury tomato relish. Inside each tender, pillowy dumpling case was a dense, herby meat filling (also beef and lamb). The relish had a bit of a kick to it that uplifted the mild dumplings with a spicy touch. Everything smelled and tasted delicious!

IMG_2521

FullSizeRender
Manti – steamed dumplings

On the day we visited, sadly they had run out of Jiz Biz (Samarkand’s most popular dish of pan fried rack of lamb served with potato cake and fresh herb salad).  So the manager suggested we try the Shashlik (£17) – skewered meat slow-cooked over a robata grill. We ordered the buttermilk marinated lamb version. The lamb was very juicy and tender from the marinade, with luscious and smoky flavours coming from the grill. I am a big fan of the kebab; this is one of my favorite ways to eat meat – on a stick! The accompanying red onions added colour, texture and pungent flavours to the soft meat. It was an accomplished dish, however, at £17 for one skewer, it was probably not the best value for money.

IMG_2525
Lamb Shashlik
IMG_2542
Shashlik (Photo: @kwjevans)

For our mains we went for the Samarkand Plov – the national dish of Uzbekistan. This is the point where the whole Samarkand dining experience reached its zenith. Through this dish, Samarkand’s kitchen truly introduced us to the brilliant layers of Uzbek cuisine.

IMG_2534
The magnificent Plov

The Plov comprises of beef short rib slowly cooked with vegetables, chickpeas, berries and fragrant rice,  garnished with pomegranate, spring onion and eggs.

IMG_2491

This decadent but comforting dish was an exquisite, multi-flavour sesnsation and reminded me of the Middle Eastern Pilaf and the Indian Biryani. Savouring this was truly the emotional highlight of my evening. It also came at a very reasonable price of £28 (for two to share). I would highly recommend ordering this outstanding dish from the menu.

IMG_2544
Photo courtesy @kwjevans

As one of our sides, we tried some Truffle Potatoes (£4). The dish was indulgent and luxurious, and the intense & earthy flavours of the truffle shavings elevated this humble potato dish to a divine level. This is a serious plate of food, not just a side dish, which holds its own against the brilliant mains!

IMG_2533

IMG_2543
Photo courtesy @kwjevans

The Achichuk (£4) was a stunning array of fresh, juicy, colourful sweet tomatoes.  It was a delectable, palate cleansing salad with tomatoes that are freshly sourced rather than the freezer variety. The onions and herbs added another level of flavours and textures, making it a luscious and savoury side dish.

IMG_2532

IMG_2537

IMG_2545
Photo courtesy @kwjevans

A point about the service: faultless. Throughout the evening, the staff were super enthusiastic, friendly, attentive and switched on. We were visiting during a soft launch, and based on previous experiences, soft launches can be quite chaotic. However, at no point during our evening at Samarkand did it feel that way. Everything was professionally managed and smoothly run.

IMG_2536

Our splendid evening at Samarkand was a culinary journey into the rustic and rugged landscape of Uzbekistan. The chefs behind the Samarkand kitchen are doing a commendable job introducing us to a lesser known but nevertheless delicious cuisine and stirring up emotions through food.

I would highly recommend paying a visit – it is a real gem of a place!

More details can be found on their website:

http://samarkand.london/

N.B. All opinions and views expressed in this blog are my own. The photographs used have been taken by me and my partner (credited wherever applicable). I review anonymously and pay for my meals.

 
Square Meal
 

 

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s