Long established, Alounak has possibly the best Iranian food in London.
Updated June 12th, 2021: We visited Alounak yesterday and found the restaurant is now under new management.
Sadly after decades of serving the best Iranian food in London, we found it has changed considerably. Fresh bread is no longer prepared in the tandoor at the front of the restaurant and instead we were served a hardened sangak flatbread with the starters.
The salad olivieh was unseasoned and tasteless, and mast-o-khiyar had a very peculiar taste. We both had the chello kebab makhsoos but both the steak and skewer of koobideh kebab had so much salt they were inedible.
Unfortunately the food tastes very different to the usual Alounak dishes, and portions are reduced but this does not matter when the food is not great.
We were initially told the cooks had stayed and were the same but after tasting the food we inquired again and the manager told us the cook was new.
We had wondered why the restaurant was so empty with none of the regular staff and presumed it was to do with Covid. Unfortunately it seems their lack of customers and skeleton staff are more to do with the quality of the food being served. It was so bad we stopped on the way home to pick up pizza.
My first visit to Alounak was in 1993, when they started in a small premises (portacabin) in Olympia. Since then they moved round the corner to Russell Gardens and later opened a second branch in Bayswater’s Westbourne Grove. Popular with local Iranians (and those visiting), Alounak has been firmly established as one of the best Iranian restaurants in London for many years now and it has become a favourite.
As you enter the restaurant, you are met with the smell of freshly made naan, from the tandoor.
The naan takes only a few minutes to make and is an excellent accompaniment to the starters: the Mast-O-Khiyar (homemade yogurt with diced cucumber and herbs, Salad Olivieh (diced chicken, eggs, potato, pickled cucumber, peas and mayo) and the Salad Shirazi (diced onions, tomatoes, cucumber, sumac and lemon juice).
The lamb and saffron coloured chicken kebabs are delicious, served with Chelo rice, butter, and a roasted tomato.
A shaker of sumac is available to sprinkle over the rice for that truly authentic flavour.
In particular, the Chelo Kebab Koobedeh (two skewers of mince meat kebabs), the Chelo Kebab Makhsoos (a skewer of mince meat kebab and a tender fillet of saffron marinated lamb), are very good. There is also a mixed kebab grill for two to share which includes the marinated chicken cubes and lamb cubes.
Doogh, the popular salty yogurt drink, is available to order by the bottle or jug. To round off the meal, there is Iranian tea, coffee, and some incredibly sweet desserts.
Alounak does get very busy on weekends and it is best to book, but even with a booking, be prepared to wait for your table to become available. Staff are quite friendly, but are usually very busy.
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10 Russell Gardens, London W14 8EZ
Tel. 020 7603 1130
Monday – Sunday 12:00pm – 12:00 am