‘I can see flashing red lights, that must be it!‘, I exclaimed as The Boyfriend and I gingerly made our way down Kilburn High Road last night. Oh yes, I’d taken us to the highly rated, but relatively unknown Afghan restaurant, Ariana II.
I wanted to try something different that wouldn’t cost the earth, so was excited to see Ariana II in Time Out’s 50 Best Cheap Eats yesterday – not only was it a B.Y.O (hello cheapness), it was walking distance from my flat and meant we’d get to try Afghan cuisine for the first time.
Clearly better known than I’d thought, I was glad I’d booked as the restaurant was packed when we arrived. Our friends were running late/having a cheeky pre-dinner drink in the pub, so we opened our wine and ordered olives, which may have come out of a jar, chunky homous (I hate it when it’s too pureed) and fresh nan (I’m being loyal to the Afghan spelling here, just in case you’re wondering).
Amazing prices are a bit like holiday breakfast buffets – you always end up having more food than you need, just because you can. Working on this mantra, the four of us decided to go the whole hog, sharing Bolanee Kadoo (a fried pumpkin turnover served with yoghurt sauce), Spinach Samosa and Aushak (boiled dumpling filled with leeks and spices, topped with ground meat and yoghurt) as starters.
Although a tad greasy and heavy, the starters were really quite good. Standout for me was the sweet pumpkin turnover, whereas The Boyfriend was happy to stick to the boiled dumplings, which can only be described as curried dim sum (don’t be put off by the picture, it’s not all about aesthetics…).
For main, I chose the Chef’s Special Kabuli Palow – cooked lamb shank seasoned (or hidden as you’ll see from my picture) with basmati rice, carrots, raisins, almonds and pistachios.
Traditionally, the hidden lamb would have been goat, but the combination of meat, rice, raisins and pistachios is very typical in Afghanistan. The taste didn’t quite live up to the standard of our starters, but it nonetheless pleased me, even though The Boyfriend remarked it could have done with some sauce. The lamb was well cooked, satisfyingly falling from the bone, and the well seasoned rice made a sweetly wholesome accompaniment.
I’m giving Ariana II a LLE Rating of 6.5/10. It’s hard for me to compare it to anything else, but it was certainly enjoyable and for £15 a head, who’s complaining. Also, the atmosphere was exactly what we wanted for a Friday night thanks to the incredibly friendly waiters, traditional music and groups of friends laughing at the surrounding tables.
Ariana II (sister restaurant to Ariana I in New York), 241 Kilburn High Road, Kilburn, London NW6 7JN