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Comfort Versus Craving?

The coldest winter for however many years was rugged enough to make you think about food. The conventional wisdom is that when it’s cold we all turn to carbohydrate and so the articles roll off the conveyor belt – hearty stews, thick soups, wondrous new ways with baked potatoes and cheese. But all such dishes appeal in June – providing you add a drop of melancholy to the mix. A much, much better option is to turn to the Middle East. That’s right, think winter and think Arabia.
We are conditioned when all is cold, dank and dire to crave something spring-like, something dark green, something raw, something clean and delicious, so it’s worth making a bee-line to a Syrian restaurant on the Uxbridge Road called Abu Zaad. The menu here proclaims the wonders of authentic Damascene cuisine but it works sublimely well in a wintery London. Start with the tabbouleh – a vast green mound, (£3.50) huge quantities of chopped flat leaf parsley; a modicum of cracked Bulghar wheat; a well-judged lemon juice dressing. As you shovel it down with the magnificent hot bread you can feel those vits doing you good. So fresh tasting. Add some hommos (£3) – creamy and with a limpid splash of olive oil – and go on to a main course of lamb kafta, two large skewers of minced lamb – tender within and crisp outside, served with creamy rice and more hot bread (£6.50). The reason this meal rings all the bells in a British winter is that it conforms to our idea of healthy eating – greens, grilled meat, not fatty, buttery or creamy. We’re lucky. It’s very delicious.
Mohsen is a small Iranian restaurant that has been quietly going about its business for over a decade. I suspect that Mr & Mrs Mohsen originally set up their restaurant because of the Iranian community in W8 – the spot opposite the Homebase on the Warwick Road doesn’t have any other obvious virtues if you discount being sandwiched between a Young’s pub and a Fuller’s pub. Like Syrians, Iranians dish up food that makes you feel good and virtuous too. Start with sabzi and hot bread (£3.50). This starter is the perfect meal in miniature – hot bread for carbohydrate, a small amount of cheese by way of protein, a bunch of fresh herbs (and they are spanking fresh) plus some out of season radishes to add crunch. Then you can move on to the same kind of minced lamb kebab and rice as served at Abu Zaad (£10.50) just as fresh, just as lean. Drink black tea from small glasses. Feel good fast.

Charles Campion

Abu Zaad, 29 Uxbridge Road, W12 (020 8749 5107 Open daily noon-11pm
Mohsen, 152 Warwick Road, W14 (020 7602 9888) Open daily noon-midnight

Charles Campion - Monday 29th March 2010

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