WHEN I was growing up, I remember my excitement at the rare treat of a meal out.
In those days, exotic dining meant having a glass of dandelion and burdock with my fish and chips at the Elite Fisheries in Trinity Street.
Or there was the equally tantalising option of very well done roast beef and Yorkshire puddings at the Yew Tree on Halifax Road.
Eating out in Britain has come a long way since those limited (but exciting) days, and nowadays we are spoilt for choice in Huddersfield and the surrounding villages.
The list of cuisines available reads like a roll call from around the world: Indian, Italian, Chinese, Spanish, Caribbean, French, Pakistani, Turkish, Mexican, Thai, Kurdish, Brazilian and even British – the latter has improved immeasurably since my family’s Elite days.
And the latest to join this impressive menu is Persian. Iranian – or Persian – cuisine has been influenced by other Middle Eastern countries, but two world-famous foods originate from here; kebabs and ice cream.
Early last Friday evening we went along to what has become Restaurant Row in Huddersfield town centre: the railway arches opposite Tesco, where all but one arch serve food – the other sells wine.
Iranian Ali Sahebnazar opened Apadana two months ago. He’s lived in Brighouse for over 12 years and this is his first restaurant.
Persian food tends to be relatively healthy, lightly cooked with fresh ingredients and we were looking forward to trying it.
Apadana means a grand hall supported by columns, the most famous example of which is Persepolis, the ancient ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid empire in modern Iran.
We didn’t spot any columns, but there was a Middle Eastern flavour to the interior decor with bas reliefs of a gilded two-headed unicorn and a bold red warrior adorning the walls. The Oriental motif extended to the rich tablecloths covered with a large transparent plastic covering – pristinely clean but chosen for practical rather than aesthetic reasons.
The restaurant was fairly empty, although it was still early, but it was a good sign that the other diners looked to be enjoying their food.
There was a choice of a dozen starters ranging from £2.50 to £3.95, and mazeh sini – appetiser selection – at £12. It was tempting, but we knew we’d never finish it.
The vegetarian kashk-e badenjan was the pick of the starters, with sautéed aubergines cooked with walnut, garlic, whey and mint, a mouthwatering combination to awaken the palate.
The home-made hummus with puréed chickpea, tahini, garlic and lemon juice bore no resemblance to the Sainsbury’s version I’d had for lunch; this was fresh, tangy and incomparably better.
Other starters included soups, steamed spinach and a number of previously unknown but interesting concoctions.
Chelow kebab (rice and kebab) is the national dish of Iran and we went native, ordering skewers of chicken, lamb fillet and minced lamb (Prices for main courses run from £7.50 to £11.95.) Well, not the whole hog, we washed them down with a couple of beers and glasses of wine.
The kebabs were stylishly presented on large rectangular plates with basmati rice, garnished with saffron and grilled tomato.
As one who has struggled to cook basmati consistently well, I appreciated the skill of the chef. His basmati was wonderful, every single grain cooked to fluffy perfection.
The kebabs were a revelation. The meat was quite simply the tenderest I’ve ever eaten. Chicken very lightly marinated, lamb fillet which melted in the mouth and divine minced lamb, delicately spiced with sumac.
They left us wanting for more, which fortunately we had, as we couldn’t finish the generous portions after the starters and left with two doggie bags.
VERDICT: Opening your first restaurant isn’t easy, but if the kebabs are anything to go by, this one’s a sure-fire winner.
Arch 9, Viaduct Street, Huddersfield, HD1 5DL
Tel: 01484 511118
Website (coming soon):www.apadanarestaurant.co.uk
Opening hours: 1pm top 10pm seven days a week
Disabled Access: Yes, full access
The bill: £19 a head including drinks
Would you go back? Without a doubt for the kebabs