I'm also going to talk about their regular menu at the end so you can see what you might be able to enjoy if you can't go immediately. But first, the Christmas feast!
As you can see, our table was decorated with a fun Christmassy tablecloth and lots of toys and ribbons. Christmas crackers were on the table waiting for us. Christmas crackers, I have learned, are not a crunchy edible item that smells of cinnamon or something. No, they are cardboard tubes that you pull apart to make a loud obnoxious sound. We all did ours at the same time so all the other diners knew not to mess with us.
We were treated to pomegranate juice Prosecco early on, but it took a very, very long time to get someone's attention to ask for water, and even longer for them to bring it, so bring a bottle to save you. Finally, our cold mezze arrived.
This is probably where normal people would be full, especially because by now we have gone through 4 baskets of bread per head, but we're just getting warmed up. Next we had a traditional chickpea, spinach, and crispy fried bread dish and a most delicious peanut and Brussels sprouts stew.
But we're not done! That was just the mezze/appetizer portion! We haven't even gotten to the mains. I'm full just remembering all of this.
First came the traditional and very recognizable dolmeh: imam biyaldi (from the webiste), Turkish stuffed aubergines with tomato, onion, and garlic; and Persian stuffed red peppers with rice and nuts. Stuff vegetables are common, almost expected vegan mains and might not seem exciting to you, or me, but even I would happily order this magical plate again. It helped that the oil-dredged roasted veggies came on a bed of thick lavash, rendering the bread soaked through and pretty outstanding in its own right.
The next main was so unique and special, both in taste and appearance. The chestnut tagine with a buttery basmati rice and shirazi salsa (and more green salad!) showed off chestnuts, chickpeas, and other legumes and vegetables stewed for a very long time in tamarind, resulting in a black dish with extraordinarily deep levels of flavor.
After all of this food, plus 7 baskets of lavash each, we were busting at the seams. But Persepolis's desserts are just as remarkable as its savory food, so we knew that more challenges awaited us. We did not quite anticipate the extent of those challenges. We all laughed in disbelief, shock, and excitement when our tray of middle eastern sweets arrived with the stern order from Sally that we were to finish every last bite. (Yes ma'am.)
The Christmas feast includes mint tea or coffee to end, and even though fresh mint tea is my favorite, none of us could stomach another thing, even a liquid. It was an amazing, incredible, unbeatable meal, and for only $30 there's no better deal, especially in this town. Run don't walk.
The next dish was the most incredible standout, one of Persepolis's best and most interesting offerings. It's soft tofu cooked with the most insanely deep-flavored dates of all time. You probably think that sounds disgusting, because I did, and I would never have ordered it if my friend didn't insist, thanks to her prior knowledge. But this puts all other tofu scrambles to shame. To damn shame. Somehow, these amazing Iranian dates meld with the tofu to create this magical flavor that you never imagined existed. And then it's all over warm bread. Yes.
So obviously you can see that Persepolis is not to be missed. Not one thing on their menu is to be missed. If you can't get to London, you should check out Sally Butcher's cookbooks. But really, you need her to cook for you. I imagine how I feel about her now is along the lines of how Eric Ripert and all those award-winning NYC chefs feel about that old woman living in a monastery in South Korea who cooks for the monks.
PERSEPOLIS, PECKHAM, LONDON
Water speed: Nonexistent at first, but then they really became attentive.
Service: It depends how crowded the place is. They are doing a million things at once but will be super helpful when they can be.
Bathrooms: There is one now!
Food: The best. Go hungry and don't expect to eat for the rest of the day.
Bonus: Fun, cozy atmosphere, extremely affordable and so cheap for what you are getting.