The chef at the pub we go to is Iranian. And they recently gave him free rein to do a Middle Eastern night. I put them in the way of a good bellydancer (one of my teachers). It promised to be fun...
He started with a home-made peach and saffron vodka. Which didn't taste as bad as it smelled, and that is about the best you could say for it. A pity, because the mirza qasemi - richly-flavoured grilled aubergine slices topped with a paste of onion, tomatoes and eggs - was absolutely gorgeous and deserved a good white wine.
The next two courses were served with Lebanese wines. Which again were not as good as the food and really, it is kinder not to talk about them too much.
Dawn's first dance set came before the next course. She wore a very pretty pink bedlah and did a lovely romantic Egyptian piece - but there were a few diners who didn't really know how to behave. I guess country pubs aren't the most obvious place to find a bellydancer.
Taas kabab - sort of a meatloaf of beef (although most recipes I have spotted look more like stews) was really delicious, served warm with spinach and yoghurt, (and somewhat ubiquitous) bread and radish salad.
They were substantial portions, and I could probably have stopped there. I was a bit apprehensive to realise that there were another two courses to come. I remembered that when we used to go to the Persian place in Sydney, we were always uncomfortably full by the end of the meal and could never face dessert.
The main course was zereshk polow, a beautifully colourful dish of roast chicken, served with rice garnished with pistachios, saffron and barberries. While it looked wonderful, I thought this was the weakest dish of the night. The chicken and rice were both a little dry - which was disappointing, because fragrant, buttery, fruit and nut-bejewelled rice is something I have adored in Middle Eastern meals in the past.
At about this point Dawn came out for her second set of the night. With isis wings - pretty spectacular at the best of times, even more impressive in a small pub. This was a more upbeat piece - she wore a pretty striking red and black evening dress style costume and there was audience participation from yours truly. I thought her performance really added some fun to the evening, but I haven't spoken to the manager yet about how they thought it went...
The dessert was a borrowing from French cuisine - the light layers of puff pastry and sweet, vanilla-y whipped cream that make up a Napoleon are simple but so delicious. Garnished with slivers of pistachio it was even better. But my lord was that a big portion! I made it through about a quarter of my serve before the waitress started to laugh at my pain and took it away from me. The dessert was served with a glass of zibib - a drink of the ouzo/arak ilk, which fortunately tasted deliciously of cherries and bitter almonds, rather than being a strong aniseed hit.
So - I ate too much, danced in public and had a lovely time. Pretty much a perfect evening then.