Conveniently located and serving good quality food at affordable prices, Sadaf is a safe bet for Middle Eastern food in W2. This place won’t exactly sweep you off your feet, but if you’re after reliable, pleasingly authentic Persian cuisine, you won’t go far wrong here.
Within easy reach of both Bayswater and Paddington stations, and a short distance from Notting Hill, vibrant Westbourne Grove makes for a convenient, bustling location. The exterior of the restaurant itself is pleasing, even if it doesn't exactly scream 'Middle Eastern'; a white canopy spreads over large glass panels along the restaurant’s front, framed in dark wood. Inside, the décor is much the same - although photographs and landscape paintings of Iran on the walls do admittedly give the place a dash of character.
Midweek, Sadaf is neither bustling nor quiet; a slow but steady stream of diners – some Iranian, but the majority locals popping in for dinner post-work – trickle in over the course of the evening and generally feel comfortable enough here to take their time over their food. This place has a relaxed vibe, helped by its friendly and attentive staff, and you’ll most likely be happy enough to stay awhile and watch the world go by.
Start by selecting a few meze – both hot and cold – as a starter; there’s a wide selection, and they’re all reasonably priced at £4-£5 per serving. The homous is a good; full of tahini (perhaps a little too much so, depending on your personal tastes) and strong in flavour, it’s pleasingly authentic – the precise combination of the chickpeas, tahini and herbs is unmistakably Iranian in style.
The stand-out starter here, though, has to be the khashke bademjan – a warm dish of mashed aubergine, fried onion, herbs, garlic and walnuts mixed with whey which is light, full of flavour and incredibly moreish with its soft, mashed texture. It’s particularly good combined with the crispy, warm traditional naan flatbread, even if it is slightly overcooked at the edges.
Great Iranian food generally means great meat, marinated in a variety of herbs and spices. So, opt for a meat dish in a Persian restaurant and you should get a generally fair indication of the overall quality of the place. Happily, the mixed grill for two is not only affordable, but of a generous size and bursting with flavour, with lamb and chicken kebabs, minced lamb cutlets, a lamb chop, a minced chicken fillet and a baby chicken fillet all infused with a range of herbs and spices. Expect to struggle to finish it all – especially with the complementary side serving of perfectly cooked rice and a fresh, crunchy salad.
If a meat dish is the test for a good quality Iranian main, baklava is undoubtedly the equivalent for dessert. The baklava on offer here (priced around the £5 mark) is pleasant enough, though most probably not the highest quality you’ll ever taste. Alternatively, leave the Middle Eastern-inspired cuisine behind at this point and go for something a little more Western in flavour - the ice cream sundaes here are, although obviously bought in, refreshing and of a good size.
Go for something light and airy with your dinner, particularly if you’re going for one of the heavier meat options on the menu. The house rosé is a reliable choice - palatable and sweet – but the real stand-out choice for a drink here is the authentic doogh. A Persian minted yoghurt drink, it’s a bit of an acquired taste - but incomparably refreshing all the same.
The Last Word
Offering good quality cuisine and a welcoming atmosphere, Sadaf is a good bet for Persian dining in west London. Pop in if you’re in the area as it’s certainly worth a try, and the food in here is reliable. Do be advised, though, that if you’re prepared to venture a little further out than the edge of Zone 2, there are similarly-priced, more authentic Persian restaurants to be found in the city.