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
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Rooney celebrates with striker-partner Radamel Falcao after the pair combine to put United ahead
footballManchester United vs Newcastle match report
Latest stories from i100
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

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £30,000 Uncapped

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Day In a Page

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all