My best friend used to go to college in Baltimore where one of the only redeeming qualities of the city (sorry) was The Helmand, which was apparently owned by some Afghan royalty…or something. We went nearly every time I visited Blair at Johns Hopkins and always ordered plates and plates of pumpkin covered in yogurt. So I searched for an Afghan restaurant in London.
Afghan Kitchen jumped out the most, and though this TimeOut review noted that the quality was slipping, I liked the fact that they’ve always only had 8 dishes- 4 vegetarian and 4 meat and that the atmosphere sounded bare and unimpressive. Also, it is conveniently located in an cute area close to my unversity.
So Thursday, Pete and I decided if we had 26 restaurants to try, we better get started and went to check it out.
Our first impression was that the pastel interior and minimalist style seemed as if it weren’t due to lack of effort, but more in attempt to blend in with the other hip restaurants and bars in the neighborhood.
For dinner we ordered fresh bread (available during evenings only, £3.50), borani kado (pumpkin with yogurt, £6.50) and qurma suhzi gosht (lamb with spinach £6.95) and two teas (80p each.) The bread was good but very oily. The pumpkin was good, but a bit too spicy and lacking any other real flavour. The lamb with spinach, as Time Out had warned, was oily and tasted like a typical lamb curry at a mediocre Indian restaurant. The lamb itself though was very, very tender.
The prices were reasonable for London, but considering the 3 simple chunks of pumpkin in our pumpkin dish, these guys are making a killer profit. And bread for £3.50? Now that’s a joke. The service was slow, even though all the dishes were already prepared and sitting in dishes behind a glass counter in plain sight. They seemed to prioritize take away orders, and we had to remind them we were waiting.
A meal for 2 was about £20, but because it was late, they threw in 3 free pieces of various kinds of baghlava, all, according to Pete and myself, inferior to the batch I made recently.
The restaurant is tiny and we were seated at a communal table, which is fine, but made my eavesdropping and staring all the more obvious. Pete enjoyed our food and left full, but both agreed that the food was not unique enough to crave it over some hole-in-the wall Indian (which our curry was very similar too.) We won’t be returning, but I will be on the lookout for some more authentic Afghan “home cooking” that hopefully hasn’t been spoiled for its British clientele.
And though I’m no expert on Afghan cuisine just yet, The Helmand, you have spoiled me. Baltimore 1 London 0 in the Afghan food competition.
On to B,
sidenote: I also realize now that I should invite more people along (or get a paying job) for my ABC adventure so we can try more dishes. Also I will try to use a real camera next time, not my iPhone, provided I can locate my charger. Also I wish I could insert a pound sign without having to copy and paste but my computer only speaks American.