REVIEW: Parsis Cafe, Leamington Spa

It can be tricky to write a review for a restaurant where during your dinner you were so shitfaced you avoided going to the toilet for fear of falling down the stairs and being rushed to A&E in a town you don’t know very well. But here we are.

Okay, it wasn’t *that* bad, but I (and my dinner companions) were certainly merry. Not that that swayed my opinion of Parsis Cafe. Even through my Wine Goggles I could tell it was a top-notch place to stuff your face.

Parsis Cafe is a Persian restaurant in the centre of Leamington Spa (which holds the accolade for my favourite city outside of London – high praise indeed, I’m sure LS will agree). For anyone better acquainted with the Big Smoke, it’s a bit like an independent Dishoom, with bigger balls/flair and more curries to choose from. The interior is almost identical, though.

From the get-go, the service was stellar. Helpful, knowledgeable and a bit cheeky. Maybe the last bit was just a coping mechanism when faced with our caravaned faces. Aside from manymanymany bottles of wine, we ordered one of the Mezzeh Platter, which is made up of chef’s specialities like vegetable samosa, grilled halloumi, smoked aubergine hummus, sujuk sausages and pomegranate and walnut-marinated olives, as well as spicy lamb keema, sticky tamarind chicken wings and black dal (YUMMMMMM) to start. It’s hard to pinpoint a favourite because it was all really good – in fact my favourite thing about Parsis is that everything tastes so individually different, rather than all slathered with the same tahini or garlic sauce – but the keema and dal really stood out. I also loooooved the chicken wings. It’s like choosing amongst your children, I imagine.

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We went our separate ways come main course. Alex had a Northern Iranian pork bellow curry, laced with the same sausages we’d tried in the platter and lots of tomato and turmeric and our friends had the chicken and fenugreek curry and the tender lamb shank in cinnamon gravy – I was very tempted by that one! All were delicious. I plumped for slow-cooked beef short rib and bone marrow curry. Predictable, I know, I know! But I don’t care because it was perfection on a plate. The meat collapsed instantly, like it had never even been in the same room as the bone, let alone bowl and it was juicy and tender, with its own flavour not merely the soaked-upness of the sauce, which was light, coconut-y and almost citrus-y. Various breads and rices also appeared, from our own ordering or the insistence of the waiter, I can’t remember.

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By this point, we were beyond full. And drunk. Did I mention we had quite a bit of alcohol? Everyone was holding their tummies and talking of the bill and possibly a bar after. And then I saw the dessert menu. Correction: I saw they had kulfi on their dessert menu. And so I ordered one for everyone. We did not need the kulfi. I am glad we had it. It was much, much better than Dishoom’s and I have waxed lyrical about their take for years. Much creamier, much more like ice cream rather than whatever a Mini Milk is and more perfumed, like a Turkish Delight. Lovely stuff.

It wasn’t even that expensive, considering everything we consumed – about £45 a head.

Parsis Cafe, 14 The Parade, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, CV32 4DW

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Freelance writer, eater, drinker and cook living in London.

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