Behesht, 1082-1096 Harrow Road, London, NW10

Behesht doesn't stand on ceremony, but its food is a true Middle Eastern delight

There are perks to this job, I'm not going to deny it. Eating out in lovely restaurants is wonderful, although forming cogent thoughts about them afterwards? Not so much. I do consider myself lucky – as does Mr M, and he doesn't even have to do the writing afterwards. I sometimes even let him choose his own main course. But one of the paybacks of the position is that I get asked for recommendations all the time. I'm expected to be a walking Harden's guide – which I don't mind, I just wish I actually had an encyclopaedic knowledge of delicious places to eat.

The other day, I was asked, via Twitter, to suggest a good Persian in London. Ah, I thought, I know this one. "Behesht on Harrow Road," I typed. And clicked "send". Then I remembered my so-called recommendation was based on one takeaway, a decade ago. Some expert.

So I thought I'd better eat at Behesht, just to make sure I hadn't sent an unsuspecting soul to a real dive. I've driven past the place hundreds of times on my way to the M4 – all illuminated and with cars packed along the kerb. Decoratively, it's very, er, bold.

We're shown into one of several ante-rooms – past the parrot, the babbling water features, the cabinets stuffed with slightly dusty nicknacks – and to a table with six chairs crammed around it. Ambience and elbow room are not priorities. There are mournful tapestry portraits of Middle Eastern ladies and layers of rugs and throws dotted around – as though the years have brought more decorating ideas, laid on top of past ones. It's eccentric, but somehow it works – and it gives the children something to gawp at while they wait.

Having said that, the wait for food is not long. Starters are with us within 10 minutes. Vast naan breads in a stack, a few bubbles and charred edges; soft heaps of yoghurt mixed with spinach and herbs, a verdant plate of paneer sabzi – tarragon, mint and coriander leaves, spring onions, radishes and walnuts, with a chunk of salty feta, and a bowl of very good, plump olives. All is demolished (correct word for eating with children).

Mains follow fast: there's little variation (unless you come on a Friday, when Special Iranian Stew makes an appearance). It's all about the kebab: lamb or chicken. Rice and salad, or bread and salad. Edited choice is great when it works and at Behesht, it works. The chicken, whether on or off the bone, is succulent and tender; the lamb, minced or cubed, likewise. Each dish comes with a heap of white rice and a cursory salad, plus a flame-blistered tomato that mushes up nicely with the meat and rice.

As you might be able to tell, we're not standing on ceremony here. Behesht is an elbows on the table, reach across, wolf down kind of place; and we're taking our lead from the almost exclusively Middle Eastern clientele. Babies are gumming naans and men are gesturing expansively from table to table.

Meanwhile, I've gone off piste – khoresht pollo ba Morgh is a quarter chicken slow-cooked and buried in a mountain of saffron-infused rice, with dried forest berries and a small dish of smoky, tomato-y sauce. It's pretty near perfect – the sour berries and soft rice, the meat falling off the bone and all drenched in the sauce.

After that lot, we assume the position of those men, slumped back on the unforgiving wooden chairs, wishing to undo top buttons all round. Even the children have cleared their plates. We get a top-up of mint tea and sigh contentedly.

It's worth noting that Behesht does play fast and loose with the idea of customer service. Two of our starters didn't turn up; unavailable apparently, when we ask later. The advertised fresh apple and orange juices were nothing of the sort. And they do not serve tap water.

I'd thought that was against the rules. But I'm told that since Behesht doesn't serve or allow alcohol, that gets round the rule. Hmm. There are so many water features around the place that we find this unfathomable. Perhaps taking pity on us, the waiter gives us a bottle of mineral water, so that one of our group can slake his feta-induced thirst.

So, Behesht has proved worthy of the recommendation. It's never going to win any haute cuisine or décor awards but it's very good at Persian food. Phew.


Scores: 1-3 stay home and cook, 4 needs help, 5 does the job, 6 flashes of promise, 7 good, 8 special, can't wait to go back, 9-10 as good as it gets

Behesht 1082-1096 Harrow Road, London NW10, tel: 020 8969 7222 Open 12pm-12am, seven days a week. Around £25 for two, including tea

London's Middle East

Ali Baba

32 Ivor Place, London NW1, tel: 020 7723 5805

The food, the service, the TV blaring – all is as you'd find it in a Cairo café at this small BYO Egyptian, in a front-room behind a Marylebone takeaway

Chez Marcelle

34 Blythe Road, London W14, tel: 020 7603 3241

The indomitable Marcelle presides over this one-woman show in an Ikea-esque room, behind Olympia; her colossal Lebanese dishes are excellent; atrocious waits, however, may make takeaway a better option


9 Seymour Place, London W1, tel: 020 7724 5131

Near Marble Arch, a small, unglitzy but welcoming Arabic restaurant, where simple fare is done well, and at reasonable cost

Reviews extracted from 'Harden's London Restaurant Guide 2011'

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
British author Howard Jacobson has been long-listed for the Man Booker Prize
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Louis van Gaal watches over Nani
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

    Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

    The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn