Stacey Black takes a tour of Persian soul food, courtesy of Kuch on Whiteladies Road
Kuch, the popular restaurant on Whiteladies Road has been serving up hefty portions of Persian soul food for a while now, and I’m ashamed to say I’d never visited before this review. With a menu that promises authentic Middle-Eastern fare, I expected a mix of dishes that were both colourful and satisfying. I wasn’t disappointed.
Walking through the bright and cheerful restaurant, diners are treated to a view of the deli-style preparation counter near the entrance. Mountains of vibrant salads are stacked up high alongside numerous pots of interesting-looking dips and sauces, and the chefs are busy attending to the steamy ovens. Warm and welcoming, the oranges and blues of the walls and furniture conjure up visions of hot, sunny days and the enticing smells from the kitchen instantly make your tummy grumble in anticipation. To say I was excited to eat here was an understatement.
Pulling up a pew near the back of the narrow but brightly lit space, we were placed directly in front of the open-plan kitchen, where various pots and pans hung above the window. Along one wall there are rows upon rows of shelves groaning under the weight of giant jars of pickles, oils and sauces, as well as a large selection of wines. Now settled in our cosy spot and furnished with a glass of wine each, we were ready to check out the menu.
Starters are focused around bread, and you have the choice of taftoon, which is a crisp thin Persian flat bread or barbari, which is thicker and more substantial. Opting for the former, our helpful server for the evening, Nima, suggested the Mirza – a warm, aubergine and pepper dip, usually served with cubes of feta. Slightly spiced and tomato-ey, this was a triumph, especially when scooped up with the gossamer-light and still satisfying taftoon bread which was so immense, it positively dominated our table. Fluffy, shiny with a little oil and studded with poppy seeds, I tore off huge hunks of it and dunked it into my sauce until nothing remained.
My dining partner chose the calamari, and a main-sized portion of golden-hued squid rings soon arrived. He’s already a big fan of seafood, but he confidently remarked that these were the best he’d eaten, and was particularly impressed by the unusual seasonings of garam and turmeric. Smothered in pomegranate and date syrup, I wasn’t sure if he’d be able to manage the lot, but I was wrong.
On the recommendation of Nima, my main dish was the toss kebab. More of a stew, this fresh-tasting mixture of aubergine, sweet potato, puy lentil and carrot arrived in a little pot. This was accompanied by several triangles of glossy barbari bread and a side salad of grated red cabbage and tabbouleh, with an orange and pomegranate dressing. Expecting this to be a rich concoction, I was surprised to find it was much lighter and fresh-tasting than anticipated. This was no bad thing, and I savoured every spoonful.
Making his selection from the Southern Persian speciality corner of the menu, my partner decided on the Galieh Mahi. Boasting that this dish is “the best of Persian Gulf fish soul food”, I knew this would be something special. Two large fillets of creamy fish were perched precariously atop a curry spiced with fenugreek, coriander and chilli with a side of saffron rice. Bold and flavoursome with a pungent kick of tamarind and a pleasant, dry heat from the chilli, this was decorated with slivers of moreish burnt garlic and onion.
The portion sizes here are pretty substantial, but I’d highly recommend saving some room for dessert. With interesting options such as the ringnak, which is a confection of fried dates, pistachio and almond, with rose water, cinnamon and tahini ice-cream, as well as faloodeh, which is a lime and rose water sorbet served with cherry compote, you have some tough decisions to make. But when baklava is on the menu, nothing else compares. Three sizeable cubes of chopped almonds, pistachios and walnuts encased in agave and rose water-soaked filo pastry landed at our table, alongside a silver decanter of Persian tea. These were flaky, sweet and utterly unctuous and I was glad to have the fresh and floral hot tea to wash it all down with.
Having never visited before, I was so impressed by the food at Kuch that I went back for a second time in the same week. With hefty portions of exciting food that doesn’t cost the Earth, all served up in a relaxed atmosphere, it’s no wonder that this place is a firm favourite amongst Bristol’s foodies. I have no doubt I’ll be back for a third visit.
133 Whiteladies Road
Bristol BS8 2PL
0117 253 0300