Seated just a few feet away from a vast spread of appetisers, I wasted no time in grabbing a bowl of hot and hearty broth. The aash-e-joe – a creamy soup of pearl barley, fresh herbs, white rice and lentils – set the agenda superbly with sheets of soft flatbread, which had been brought to the table along with two large bottles of mineral water by one of the tireless waitresses. Meanwhile, all around me, my dining companions were tucking into fresh, verdant salads with mint and parsley, bulbous olives and lashings of fresh natural yoghurt. It would have been easy to get carried away before moving on to the main dishes. So I got carried away, then I moved onto the main dishes.
With so many steaming platters and pots lying in wait, it was difficult to know where to start. But I grabbed a plate and began to build a sturdy foundation of zereshk polow saffron-infused rice bejewelled with bright red barberries that burst in a riot of sweetness in the mouth. Onto that, I spooned a large helping of khoresht ghormeh sabzi, which combined tender beef, spinach, potatoes, fragrant herbs and thick red kidney beans in a piquant stew. Then I added a dollop of Persian chicken curry with yoghurt, which engulfed the kabab koubideh – two long, soft, juicy skewers of lamb and chicken. There was no looking back now, so I added a substantial shank of lamb that fell from the bone with all the enthusiasm of an experienced skydiver.
Still, there were spice-dusted fish steaks, bubbling meat casseroles, fried chicken pieces, a gigantic, gawping fish smothered in thick yoghurt and an array of vegetables to investigate. But with a plate that resembled a small mountain, I opted for the mirza ghasemi – a savoury flan of soft aubergine, juicy tomato, garlic and fluffy egg – to cap the peak. I’d clearly overloaded, so there was no question of checking out the frozen faloodeh dessert, which you can arrange to have brought to your table, presumably in the event that you have eaten yourself immobile. Be warned, it can easily happen at the Iranian Club.