Since it first opened, The Drunken Butler in Clerkenwell has been serving a menu that mixed French and Persian flavours and techniques with other international influences, drawing on founder Yuma Hashemi’s time spent working in different places around the world. On Sundays he would switch it up, running a Persian feast menu, his take on the Iranian dishes he grew up eating with his family. This summer, he’s decided to switch things up and bring in the Persian menu full time, so it’s now the only menu available at the restaurant, and it makes eating here even more of an experience.
When you step through the door, you feel like you’re in someone’s home rather than a restaurant; there are sideboards and cabinets filled with books, glasses and old liquor bottles topped with record players, family photos on the walls, and patterned rugs and tablecloths dotted throughout. Yuma designed the interiors himself, taking inspo from the homes of his mother and grandmother, and it set the tone for the type of evening you’re in for. You really are made to feel like you’re a guest in someone’s house, so there’s no menu, everyone gets served the same food, and you have the table for the whole night.
The Drunken Butler is doing an elevated take on Persian food but it’s still served sharing style. The feast starts with some delicate snacks (ours were balls of kuku sabzi and caviar parmesan croustade) and Yuma’s take on the Iranian appetiser noon-panir-sabzi (that’s bread, cheese and herbs), which were spheres of feta to spread on the flatbread and top with an assortment of different herbs and pickles. Then it’s a procession of small plates including intensely smoked aubergine with tahini, spinach and garlic cream, cucumber & rose, and smoked tomatoes with scrambled egg, and they’re all quite soft so you get more of the flatbread for scooping.
The main event is tahdig, the famous Iranian rice dish that has a glorious crunchy crust with soft grains underneath, and at The Drunken Butler it’s paired with roast chicken with barberries, a lamb stew with herbs and a lamb stew with yellow split peas, and it’s as moreish as the portion is generous. The dessert, which comes sandwiched between a palate cleanser of super fresh sour cream & herb granita and rich praline, rose & chocolate petit fours, is a combo of barberry ice cream, coconut foam, peanut crumble & rhubarb but it delivers all the textures you could want from a pud and showcases barberries in a way we’ve not seen before.
As well as designing the look of the place and the menu, Yuma is also the sommelier and wine is a big part of the dining experience here. They have a list, and a negroni selection made using vintage spirits, but they run a blind wine pairing option where you only get told about the wines after you’ve had them. Not only does it add a bit of fun into the evening, it removes your preconceptions and lets you focus on the flavours rather than thinking about what variety of grape is in the glass.
Yuma and the team have really nailed the balance between creating a relaxed and convivial atmosphere and delivering fine dining standard food and service, and there’s no one else doing Persian food quite like this right now.
20 Rosebery Ave, London EC1R 4SX