Dinner with vodka and wine: £47.00
I think it’s generally safe to say that when you start the evening with vodka and pickles that you are going to have a good time.
That being said I was a little hesitant about Samarqand. The restaurant specializes in food from Central Asia – countries like Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and most importantly Kyrgyzstan. My dad lived in Kyrgyzstan for over a decade and when I went to visit I was unfortunately less than impressed with a good deal of the food.
When we ate typical Kyrgyz food – plov, pilmeni, etc it was usually quite good. But I just remember that there was an endless parade of the worst kind of Russian cuisine. I usually eat red meat 3 or 4 times a month. Near lake Issyk-Kul, a resort area, I was subjected to an onslaught of mutton 3 times a day at a Russian style spa that left me wishing for a quick death. Even worse was the “fruit juice” which is called compote. Google that one – it’s a horror show.
So as you can imagine I needed the vodka and pickles to work up my courage. Turns out my misgivings were misplaced. But I’m still glad I had the vodka and pickles.
The interior of Samarqand is all slick black marble and very contemporary takes on traditional Central Asian crafts. It’s a bit much, and the giant horse lamp is the very definition of tacky. But that tackiness kind of enhances the whole experience.
After the pickles came more pickles (Soleniya). They were all quite good. The tomatoes were definitely my favorite. I probably could just have eaten a bucket of these and been perfectly happy. There were also some very tasty pumpkin samsa – a little bun of flaky pastry filled with pumpkin. Delish.
Really what would a vaguely Russian meal be without some sort of pickled herring? It was ok, but nothing special really. For the best pickled herring you’re really better off getting it from a Jewish deli.
One of the dishes I never got to try while visiting Kyrgyzstan were manty. I ate pelmeni (a similar smaller dumpling) on several occasions and liked those. I am lover of dumplings. Imagine me bouncing around in my seat when this platter of big pillowy steamy GIANT dumplings was placed in front of me. Definite food joy. The dumplings themselves are not overly spiced but the chili relish they serve with them really lifts the dish. I am pretty sure this is not even remotely authentic as spicy is not something the region is known for but it works really well.
I definitely recommend this place if you want to pretend you’re an Oligarch for an evening.
18 Thayer Street
London W1U 3JY