Iranian cuisine is full of unique herbs and surprising flavours for untrained taste buds. Fernanda Langhammer discovered an array of exciting dishes that played with her palate.

Bahrain is home to people from all over the world, which might be why we have so many restaurants offering diverse cuisines – we are incredibly lucky! And if you are looking for a culinary journey under the same roof, The Gulf Hotel Bahrain Convention & Spa is the place to go; you will find options from Japanese and Thai to Italian, Mexican and much more.

I have been to The Gulf Hotel many times, but it was my first time dining at Takht Jamsheed, the traditional Iranian restaurant. I have to say that this is a cuisine I am unfamiliar with, and I was curious to explore its dishes – just like travelling somewhere new, how exciting is that?

When entering the restaurant, the décor and Iranian tunes transport you to a Persian palace, somewhere grand where royalty feast on marvellous dishes. Grand columns and intricate tiles embrace the palatial feeling with Persian symbols adorning the walls; swords, shields, draped fabric on the ceilings and many small details such as vases and sculptures. A visual reception that we were happy to take in. To add to the atmosphere, a singer performs Iranian songs most evenings.

Yasmeen, the restaurant manager, welcomed us with a big smile and helped us throughout the dinner by teaching us all about the food and how to pronounce the names of the dishes. We really appreciated her attentiveness.

We started our dining voyage feasting on simple but delicious hors-d’oeuvres composed of small pots with green leaves, walnuts and feta cheese accompanied by a thin flat bread. I spread the feta cheese on my bread and filled it with arugula, mint and kurrat (a cross between spring onion and leek); what a fantastic combination of textures and flavours! Sometimes, less is more.

After this effortless start, it was time for appetisers. In my opinion, they don’t get the attention they deserve and, at Takht Jamsheed, they are worth an entire review. We had the Pish Ghazaye Mitra, a combination of two cold and three hot starters. The cold ones were Salad Shirazi, a mix of small pieces of chopped cucumber, tomatoes and onions bathed in lime juice and olive oil, a very refreshing combination and my dining companion’s favourite of them all, and Mast Khiyar, creamy yoghurt and cucumber mixed with selected Iranian herbs that resembled the Greek tzatziki, in terms of texture. The hot options were Kashk Bademjan, fried eggplants and onions topped with yoghurt, olive oil and mint, this was my favourite for its smokiness and incredible combination of crunchy onions and soft yoghurt. Mirza Ghasemi is composed of eggplant puree, tomatoes and eggs with turmeric and garlic, something I would happily have for breakfast for the comforting memories its flavours triggered in me. And, last but not least, Nargesi, made with fried spinach in butter topped with crispy onions and cream. I am not the biggest fan of this green leaf because of its strong taste but, in this dish, it was mild and not overpowering – delicious.

Before moving to the entrées, we met the man behind these authentic recipes, Mahmoud Jalali, Head Chef at Takht Jamsheed, and thanked him for the delicious meal we were enjoying. For the mains, we had Khoresht Sabzijat as a vegetarian option. This traditional Iranian stew is made with vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and baby okra in a soothing green sauce and topped with fried onions. The Iranian herbs give the final touch, adding complex flavours, in my opinion, it is an excellent choice during winter months.

The veggie dishes were full of flavour, but if you are a meat lover, you will truly enjoy dining at Takht Jamsheed. The grilled kababs are the real stars on the menu. We had a selection of lamb and chicken, and they were all cooked to perfection. The Chelo Kabab Soltani is a combination of minced and fillet lamb, Kabab Dandeh, marinated grilled lamb chops with French fries and grilled vegetables and Joojeh Kabab Bedone Ostekhan, char-grilled boneless chicken with a touch of yoghurt and saffron. The meat feast was served with two options of rice: saffron, coming in two layers, a white base with bright yellow grains on top, beautifully decorated with zereshk (dried barberries), and the traditional, mixed with broad beans and dill, considered the best pairing for lamb dishes. The saffron rice was my favourite; the flavours were well-balanced, adding a nice touch to the whole meal.

It was dessert time, and we had Faloodeh, a rice vermicelli granita flavoured with lime, cherry syrup and rose water and a scoop of saffron ice cream. The Faloodeh reminded me of a sorbet, but its texture and taste were something that I had never tried before. It was a very unusual combination that my palate was a bit confused about at first, but it was an enjoyable way to end this fantastic meal accompanied by traditional Persian tea (black tea with mint) served in a hand-painted teapot inspired by Iranian art. ✤