Twenty sixteen is quite the time to be alive, even more so living in London. Where you don’t have to travel more than a couple of miles to try food of the world. Cuisines that you only have tried if you were wealthy even to travel to those countries. It’s a pretty special time.
I recently discovered the Uzbek cuisine at Samarkand on Charlotte Street. Bring a whole new limelight, especially as it sits right next to famous Japanese restaurant ROKA.
When arriving at Samarkand, you’re greeted by bouncers and brown steel doors, which definitely doesn’t prepare for you what beauty lies behind. As you enter you get wrapped by the lovely sent of incense, before descending down the stairs. Another greeting, by a lovely lady in a traditional Uzbek overcoat, dressed in to impress including a pair of high heels. Getting you settled by taking your coat and showing you to your reservation.
The restaurant itself is well lit, complete with copper shades and tea lights at the tables. Standing at the top of the stairs, you get a complete overview of the restaurant and to the right of all the hustle and bustle of the restaurant is the Silk Road bar, tucked away.
Within the Silk Road bar, is the complete collection of different vodkas. All distilled in the bar itself – pretty impressive! We were lucky enough to try one of their unique blends of barberries and honey comb. We were made a drink using this interesting vodka into a French 75 but the vodka replaced the usual gin.
Our drinks in tow, we were sat at the bar, ready to make some manti. Manti are a turkish type of dumpling that is made using lamb and beef meat, some of the fat from each of the meats, some onion and some mixed spices. We had a go at making our very own and we were going to try them later on! How exciting.
After what was an interesting time getting our manti ready for cooking, we settled at our long table for a taste of some Uzbek food. Starting off with some Baklajon which is Uzbek style smoked aubergine caviar with some thin flatbreads. Also, some Somsa were served, which are puff pastry parcels filled with meat or pumpkin.
We even had a chance to eat the Manti we made, however they were a bit of a disappointment. Not very flavoured, quite dry and not exciting if i’m honest. I had heard that they are normally quite great, when made by the professionals. It’s just a shame we weren’t served some, to give us an example of how they should look/taste.
For the main dish, we were served some Plov, which is a dish made up of beef short ribs which is sat on a bed of carrots and special Uzbek rice that is imported in. Garnished with pomegranate, chickpeas, eggs and barberries. The dish is served with a decorative shot glass of vodka that is supposed to be sipped in between mouthfuls. This apparently breaks up the oil and fat from the meat. I wasn’t really a fan of the dish, it was excessively oily (but apparently that is how it is served) and the meat was very fatty. Nor am I a fan of drinking straight vodka, especially with a meal.
For dessert we were served poached pear with a barberry ice cream served on a bed of crushed pistachios and pomegranates. I thought it was a lovely, light dessert. The pear wasn’t overly sweet which was so great. The barberry ice-cream was unique and complimented the pear really well. The Baklava cake was really good too, especially if you love baklava and cake, served with vanilla ice-cream.
Overall, an interesting meal. I’m sure that my taste differs to many others, but personally I was a little underwhelmed by the food at Samarkand. I feel like they maybe need to iron out a few of the creases in this new opening and hopefully over time it will pick up a bit more. However, the bar at Samarkand on the other hand is fantastic and is the perfect spot to try unique spirits for a pre or post meal drink.
Star Rating for Samarkand:
Until next time…