I’VE passed Shandiz umpteen times, assuming it was just another of Vine Place’s brightly-lit takeaways aimed at feeding the masses at the end of a night out. Wrong.
Granted, it does offer this late hours service for those with an alcohol-induced hunger, but by day it operates as a cafe and restaurant serving everything from breakfast to baklava.
Indeed, this is a menu which brings the rich flavours of the Middle East to Vine Place.
Before we got stuck into the menu, a friendly waitress showed us to our table – if you want to dine in you’ll need to do this before 8.30pm, after which it closes for a couple of hours, moves the tables out and dons its takeaway hat.
It’s an informal atmosphere, no table cloths or airs and graces. It’s the home-cooked fuss-free food that counts here.
Although the illuminated menu boards above the central counter beam brightly as a give away to the takeaway guise, it doesn’t feel like you’re sitting in one and the atmosphere early evening was more relaxed, than rowdy, with students and large groups tucking into the well-priced food.
With an Iranian family at the helm, the menu here, aside from the breakfasts, is authentic Persian, making it stand out from the usual offering of Italian and Indian in the city centre.
We dipped into the small plates menu to start which features exotic-sounding dishes, such as borani esfanaaj (yoghurt and spinach, priced £2) and mirzaghasami (smoked aubergine, garlic and egg, priced £3).
I couldn’t pronounce most of them, but our waitress was helpful in navigating us through the menu and making suggestions.
We chose to share the yoghurt and cucumber dip, which is priced £2 (that one I could get my tongue around) and the halloumi salad (£3), which is served with a huge round of crisp bread for a quid.
It arrived quickly, as a takeaway they’re probably used to the need for speedy service, and there was more than enough for the two of us.
The dip was most unlike the supermarket version I’m used to: more creamy, more rich, way more delicious.
Mains are a meat-lover’s feast, a selection of BBQ and grilled lamb and chicken, which are halal. Prices don’t deviate much from the £7 mark and all come served with saffron rice, naan bread or a salad.
I chose a mixed kebab of chicken and lamb. None of your shaved-from-a-spit kebabs here, this was prepared the traditional way: huge cubes of meat, skewered and grilled.
The result was tender chunks that could be torn into with ease. It was prettily presented with a mound of rice punctuated by barberries, which provided a sweet and sour kick.
Shandiz has an alcohol licence, which means you can have a tipple with your tea. It’s a basic choice of red and white, but only set us back £10.99 for a bottle.
With wine, our two courses came to £31. With good food and fair prices like that, I won’t be judging this book by its cover again.