Dining at Persian restaurant Homa, Melissa Nazareth discovered the truth of the owner’s saying ‘we are ourselves, unique and simple’ with dishes created from outstanding family recipes.
The first thing you notice at Homa is the wall art; life-sized, in rich colours, depicting vibrant Persian culture: its women, stoic and glorious amid the chaos; regal, feminine warriors. Qajar dynasty royalty, the phoenix, ‘homa’ in Farsi. A golden sculpture of this ‘bird of blessing’ adorns the wall by the staircase. “It’s said to bring good fortune when it flies above you,” says Hanieh Mirbaha, Co-owner and Head Chef. She, along with her husband Ebrahim Ali, started this concept two years ago.
Hanieh credits her husband as the ‘courage’ behind their start-up. A hands-on entrepreneur, he has thrown himself into the dayto-day operations of the business since the start. “All the dishes are what I cook at home,” says Hanieh, adding that they’re family favourites, handed down by her grandmother and parents. “The kebabs are my father’s creations,” she adds. The restaurant is even named after her mother.
We decide to sit at the long, family-style table on the ground floor; the loft has two main dining areas adjoining an outdoor space. “What would you like to have?” asks Hanieh, displaying generous Persian hospitality. We entrust ourselves into the hands of our charming hostess who recommends an eclectic selection of dishes. As we wait for our food to arrive, our friendly servers ensure we’re comfortable. “Our staff has been with us since we began,” says Hanieh, who is full of praise for her dynamic frontof-house team.
Soon, the salad and appetisers appear; Shirazi Special, like everything else in the restaurant, has a backstory – a testament to the culinary legacy of this restaurant and the creativity of our hostess. For our hot appetisers, we have Mirza Ghasemi, smoked eggplant with a tomato and garlic base topped with a fried egg, and Khashk E Badamjan, which is fried eggplant dip garnished with fried onion bits. Both are creamy and silken, eaten with oven baked bread. The rustic flavours of the eggplant and salty yoghurt pair well. Our cold appetiser is a cucumber and yoghurt dish, Mast O Khiar, the perfect accompaniment to our meatheavy main course.
We’re joined by Hanieh and it’s almost as if we’re dining at her home. We discuss food and culture with yesteryear Persian music serenading us in the background – a playlist that Hanieh has curated herself; everything at Homa has a personal touch. She offers to serve us and tells us what sauce goes with which protein and that we must eat our meat with butter to fully enjoy the flavours…our hearts are already full.
Our main course begins with Khoresh E Gheimeh, meat and split pea balls doused in tomato gravy garnished with fried potato straws. The gravy, imbued with the intense flavours of the meat, is well complemented by the light, saffron-infused long grain rice. Khoresh E Ghormeh Sabzi, a meat stew with a mixture of herbs has an earthy flavour from the greens. We learn that all ingredients are sourced daily and cooked to order; for instance, the meat and herbs are cooked to perfection despite having different cooking times and everything arrives at the table superfresh and piping hot.
Throughout our dining experience, we taste simple, extraordinary flavours and this is something that’s highlighted by Hanieh. “We listen to our customers and we can adapt, for example if something needs more heat, but really, our recipes are truly our own. Others may imitate, but what’s important is being yourself, keeping it simple and staying unique.” This is the secret to the restaurant’s success.
We try Tachin, rice with a crispy crust cooked with meat and chicken. It is excellent and so tasty. The show stopper, so to speak, of our main course is the Homa platter. It can easily feed six to eight guests and consists of five different proteins each served with a side of rice. I start off with the kebabs – lamb, steak and chicken served with butter and grilled tomatoes. Steamy and succulent, right off the skewers, they melt in my mouth. The meat is top-notch, complementing the light saffron and barberry rice. Next on the platter is the sea bass with a side of herb infused rice and a sweet, nutty fenugreek sauce; the bass is perfectly cooked with a crispy skin. After this, I try the lamb shank served with dill infused rice and an onion gravy. The meat falls off the bone and the flavours are basic but on point. Likewise, the chicken. We finish our lunch with the traditional doogh, a cooling yoghurt drink – the much-needed ending to our generous feast.
Dining at Homa is truly an educational journey, discovering authentic Persian flavours in an atmosphere of easygoing elegance where guests are welcomed as family. We would highly recommend you try it for yourself. ✤