They say you should never a judge a book by its cover – and never is that more true than with Shandiz.
Yes, it looks like just another common or garden takeaway. That’s because it used to be – it still has the menu on huge brightly-lit TV screens to prove it.
But to dismiss it as just another takeaway on Vine Place would be to do it a disservice.
Look past the neon-lit sign and takeaway style counter and fridges and you’ll find yourself in a hidden gem of authentic Persian cuisine.
In keeping with the business’ past as a late night takeaway, there’s no airs and graces about the decor, but it’s comfortable enough and has been made prettier with Moorish motifs on the walls and fresh flowers on the counter. It’s also disabled-friendly for those with mobility issues.
It all evokes a laid-back, warm and welcoming atmosphere, matched by the friendly staff who are keen to talk through menu choices and explain any of the more exotic-sounding ingredients.
Food, which can be ordered to take out or for delivery, is served from 8.30am and starts with English classics such as a full English for £4 and an omelette for £1.80, and moves further east as the day progresses.
The small plates and main meals take your tastebuds on a trip to the Mediterranean and the Middle East with options such as mirza ghassem, a traditional Northern Iranian starter of grilled aubergine; falafel sandwich; kofta wrap and a range of Mediterranean style BBQ and grills.
The prices are as cheap as chips. In fact some dishes are cheaper than chips. The small plates start from just £2 and you’ll struggle to spend more than £8 on a main meal.
As if that wasn’t good enough value, you also get free stuff! We were served an unexpected appetiser of a beautifully rich and creamy lentil soup, which staves off your hunger while the meals are made to order.
We ordered our small plates and mains to arrive altogether: a halloumi salad (£3), houmous (£2.50), yoghurt and cucumber dip (£2) and two mains of darbary, a mixed dish of lamb and chicken skewer (£8). You can order a side of bread for the dips, but our mains were served on a large flatbread so there was plenty for dunking. The houmous was served as a huge, lustrous mound and had that dense creamy texture you just don’t get with the shop-bought stuff.
The yoghurt and cucumber dip was a smoother affair and was perfect for lathering on the skewered meats. The halloumi was also great value, with four salty slabs balanced on top of a large salad.
The sides would have been enough of a meal in themselves, but then there’s the meat. If Shandiz was fancy enough to have a signature dish, it would be their kebabs – there’s also a vegetarian option for those who eschew meat.
The lamb was beautifully succulent and rich and our knives slid through it with ease as we freed it from the skewer. Though it was perfectly complemented by the dips, when the meat’s this good it doesn’t need any added extras.
The chicken was equally well-executed. It can be a bland choice, but this version, in a light lemon juice and saffron marinade, was tastily tender.
We had three large glasses of wine with our meal and the bill still didn’t come to £40 - this was purse-pleasing Persian perfection.