PERSIAN restaurants seem to be growing in popularity in Sheffield and Artin is the latest of a small but growing band.
Situated on Abbeydale Road in a former furniture shop, Artin was opened five weeks ago by Iranian Mohammed Panpechi and the word of mouth business is good so far, I was told.
Inside, the restaurant has a dramatic look with dark, deep red, blue and green painted walls and atmospheric music was playing when we visited.
Service is relaxed but efficient and our black-clad waiter soon had us sat at a pleasant window table and ordering drinks. I had pomegranate juice and my friend Linda had orange. They also serve the traditional yoghurt-based drink, doogh, at 99p a glass.
They are applying for a drinks licence at the moment but you can take your own for the time being.
The menu, which runs through from lunchtime to evening, is reasonably short and is being given a trial run and will be tweaked when they see what is popular. It includes shawarma wraps, kebabs and Persian dishes. Prices range from around £3 for starters and £6.49 to £8.49 for main courses.
It is mostly meat-based but there are some vegetarian and fish choices.
We ordered starters first and our main courses later on as the waiter was keen not to hurry our choice unduly.
He had a big table to deal with but also managed to be very attentive to us, making sure we had what we needed several times during the evening.
Linda ordered nann panir sabzi (£2.99) and I had kashke bademjan (£2.99)
Other choices included another aubergine dish, different types of salad and yoghurt dips.
Linda’s dish was deceptively simple: a plateful of beautiful fresh, green herb leaves – flatleaf parsley, mint and basil – topped with slices of salty, white feta cheese that tasted like feta, but it worked really well.
Mine was a warm, lush aubergine dip with a great, silky texture lots of intriguing and gentle spices and a slight tang to it. The menu description says that the aubergine is mixed with fried onions and fried mint.
It was just the sort of aubergine dish I like and it was really enjoyable liberally spread on to flatbread.
The waiter returned to take our main course choices. There are some dishes they only do on certain nights, like sabzi pollo mahi, a pan-fried trout dish that is only available on Thursday, or mahicheh, lamb shank with rice and broad beans, that is cooked on Fridays and Saturdays only.
The rest of the nenu involves lots of kebabs or more complicated Persian dishes like zeresk, which is chicken with rice and barberries, or avbgoosht dizi, a lamb stew with potatoes and tomatoes
The grill house special mix also sounds entertaining, with four types of minced lamb, lamb and chicken kebabs with three portions of rice, available for up to five people to share, for £25.
We decided to go for one chicken dish and one lamb, which we chose from the kebab and Persian dishes sections of the menu.
I had my eye on the jojeh, which is a whole spring chicken on the bone, but sadly they’d all gone, so I had a jojeh kebab (£8.49), which is chicken off the bone, instead.
Linda had gheimeh, which is a lamb stew (£7.49).
My chicken came as one long kebab which stretched across the plate, and it was accompanied by rice and grilled tomato and chilli.
I was asked if I wanted it juicy or not and was recommended to go for that, otherwise it might be dry. The meat, while a little chewy, tasted good and was indeed juicy.
The plain basmati rice, which was partially coloured yellow with saffron, was light and fluffy.
It came with a little pack of Lurpak butter and I melted a little into it, but I think I was supposed to use the whole pack for the full effect. I read online that this is usual with Iranian rice dishes.
Linda’s gheimeh was an interesting dish of lamb and split yellow peas, with again chewy but tasty meat in a sauce with plenty of interesting mild spices and a lovely tang provided by dried limes. She had the same rice with hers.
The food, while tasty and very filling, also felt like a healthy plateful or two as it was free from oil and had plenty of fresh ingredients. The flavours, mainly new to me, are aromatic and interesting but mild.
We didn’t manage to leave room for pudding but could have had ice cream or traditional Iranian sweets called rollet and napeloni. They also do Persian tea, English tea and coffee.
Our bill came to a very reasonable £29.92, including four drinks, after the waiter had noticed a mistake in our favour. He was very apologetic but it had only been about £33, in any case.
lVerdict: interesting and relaxing evening; a pleasant addition to Sheffield’s growing number of world flavours.
lOpening times: 1pm to 11pm weekdays, midnight at weekends.
Artin Persian Grill House, 312 Abbeydale Road, S7 1FN. 0114 327 9262.