Ever wondered where to have Uzbek cuisine in London?
I visited London’s most talked about restaurant, Samarkand.
I was really excited to visit Samarkand in Fitzrovia as I’d read so much about it and I’d never tried Uzbek cuisine before. Plus I heard there was vodka.
Samarkand gets it’s name from the city Samarkand in Uzbekistan which is located on the Silk road, the ancient trade route between China and the Mediterranean.
The decor in Samarkand is sleek and very tasteful. As soon as we entered I felt underdressed, a ‘death metal’ tee and pink mini skirt didn’t quite feel right for the fine dining establishment. But we were welcome into the restaurant with open arms and felt totally relaxed and really well looked after. Proving it didn’t really matter what I was wearing and it isn’t a pretentious place.
The menu has a large selection of authentic Uzbek culinary delights. Karl and I shared two starters which we were recommended by the staff as very traditional Uzbek dishes – Baklajon – Uzbek style smoked aubergine caviar (£6.50) and 1 plate of 3 traditional Uzbek hand-made dumplings. This flaky pastries were filled with dry aged beef sirloin and lamb rump (£6). I’m a sucker for savoury pastry dishes so these were my favourite of the two.
For our main course we went for Samarkand‘s signature Plov dish priced at £16 per person. Plov is a Uzbek recipe which has been passed from generation to generation. Unsure of what to expect of the National dish of Uzebekistan, our eyes lit up as we were served a plate piled high with Beef short rib on a bed of carrots, onions, chickpeas, barberries and rice then garnished with pomegranate seeds and spring onions. It was definitely a generous serving but a challenge we were up for.
This hearty dish was perfect for a winter evening. The meat was tender and melted in your mouth with a delicious explosion of flavour from the pomegranate seeds. It was the perfect contrast between sweet and savoury. We ploughed our way through, each mouthful as beautiful as the last.
We were recommended the side of tomato salad with the dish. We agreed and I realised after that we both don’t even like tomatoes?? (We were too excited by our whole experience obviously) BUT I was mistaken and my love for tomatoes has finally arrived, thanks to Samarkand. The salad was vibrant and tangy and complemented the Plov.
The restaurant serves over 40 vodkas so of course we had to try one and it was recommended we have a cup each with the Plov. It was not easy. I think my days of drinking straight vodka are over, unfortunately. But it complemented the dish and was the perfect fiercy drink, just what we needed before embracing a freezing December night.
A lot of thought has gone into stylish decor – there’s floral chandeliers, blue tiled walls, gold knockers on the toilet doors, and a huge map of Uzbekistan covering one wall. There’s a quote on the wall from the entrance to the basement, where the restaurant is located. The Alexander the Great quote on the city of Samarkand says ‘I heard it was beautiful but never thought it could be so beautiful and majestic.” It’s dimly lit and has a glamorous feel about it. There’s a romantic vibe about the restaurant, making it a great place for a first date. Actually I think the table next to us were actually on a date!
Samarkand is different to any other restaurant you’ll find in the capital. Despite London having an eclectic foodie scene, there is a lack of Uzbek restaurants.
For dessert I had the chocolate texture (£7.50) which as the name suggests, is a chocolate dish with a variety of textures. From smooth creamy ice cream, to soft chocolate brownie to crunchy chocolate pieces. It was visually appealing as well as utterly delicious.
Karl cleansed his palette with a selection of sorbets (£6) including a delicious blackcurrant sorbet.
We had a fantastic time at Samarkand and it’s definitely a restaurant I would recommend to others and can see myself visiting again in the future. Going for a Uzbek meal may not be the top of your list, but Samarkand will show you why it should be.
33 Charlotte St