Test Driving Nutshell - the new Iranian star of Theatreland

roomWe would recommend a healthy selection of mezze underpinned by plenty of freshly baked Bazaar bread (£3.5), designed to be topped and mopped with beautifully plated sharing dishes of smoky aubergine (£6.5), Caspian Olive tapenade (£4.5) and PanirSabzi – feta, herbs and walnut (£4).

What do we need to know about Nutshell?

It's a recently opened Iranian restaurant from husband and wife team Mohammad Paknejad and Marwa Alkhalaf, formerly chef at The Greenhouse. With the help of head chef Jeremy Borrow (formerly Head Chef at The Palomar), the new restaurant on St Martin’s Lane looks to explore all forms of Iranian cuisine, bringing traditional recipes with a modern twist to the Covent Garden dining scene.

Where is it?

Situated at what can only be described as the ‘frenetic end’ of St Martin’s Lane, Nutshell is a short hop from Charing Cross station and The Strand. Its proximity to a number of cultural landmarks including the National Portrait Gallery, Garrick Theatre and next door English National Opera will ensure this is a popular choice with the pre-theatre crowd.

Can we grab a drink nearby?

Given that the restaurant is situated at the edge of Covent Garden – we’d certainly hope so. That said, negotiating the throbbing theatre crowds between afternoon and evening shows can sometimes be a bit of an ordeal. Our advice is to stay close - Notes Coffee & Wine Bar is next door as is historic boozer The Chandos. Nearby is the always-reliable Terroirs wine bar and if it’s a ‘real cocktail’ you’re after the bar at Rules is but a five-minute walk away.

And where should we sit?

The barstools are best for a short stop pre-theatre or post-shopping trip, but the booths downstairs looked more comfortable. The front of house staff are plentiful but unobtrusive, so wherever you sit you won't have any problem getting the attention of your server – which is something of a rarity in some restaurants these days.

A design-centric fit-out gives the space a modern but forward-looking feel, with millennial pink and artificial plants making an appearance, but still feeling fresh. The abstract contemporary artwork lining the walls and the plethora of patterned tiles give it a welcoming feel, which hints at its Iranian roots. Handy spotlights above not only the bar area but also each table mean that your dishes (and your dining companions) will look more photogenic.

So what is modern Iranian food, then?

As Head Chef at The Palomar, Jeremy Borrow has mastered the style of service where dishes are called, prepared and sent out at a rapid rate – these cross the pass with impressive speed. The menu, short but concise, is well designed for this pace - we’re confident that a table of four could quite easily eat the whole menu.

Here's a selection of what we had on the night...

roomJooshPareh – oxtail dumplings with sour cherry soup and chickpea (£11.50)

roomKofte Tabrizi – a lamb meatball laced with dried fruit and walnut (£12.50)

roomWe always have eyes for the grill section and the Jojeh (chicken) Kebab (£12.5) marinated with saffron lemon and yoghurt was a menu highlight.

And to finish?

After feasting on countless dishes over the course of the evening, it was nice to be faced with a limited choice of desserts...

roomThe Zulbia (£4.5), swirls of batter reminiscent of American funnel cake, served with a generous pot of fig cream.

roomThe indulgent Chocolate & Roses (£7.5) dessert had a crunch to the base from ground pistachios, topped with a flutter of rose petals. A glass of aromatic dessert wine, from Austrian producer Wenzel was the perfect end to our meal.

How about the drinks list and wine menu?

Sometimes restaurants which have a distinctive focus on exotic cuisines can suffer when it comes to the drinks offer. Not the case at Nutshell. The ‘Zard’ (£8) – a non-alcoholic concoction of turmeric, lemon, honey, ginger and mint was a great way to start the meal. Moving onto wines, we were fortunate enough to be guided through the less obvious choices of Armenian and Israeli wines featured throughout the list – a fitting route to accompany our journey through the menu of dishes above.

Our overall thoughts

We found Nutshell to be a welcome addition to the Covent Garden dining scene. We’re delighted to see such an exciting and ambitious new operation open at business end of St Martin’s Lane – an area which we feel is still in desperate need of decent dining options.

Their short menu is packed with dishes which we’d happily order again and special note must be made of the reasonable prices – allowing a meal for two to be enjoyed for under £100. Truly a rare find in this part of the capital.

Hot Dinners ate as guests of Nutshell. Prices are correct at the time of writing.  


More about Nutshell

Where is it? 30 St Martin’s Lane, Covent Garden, London WC2N 4EJ

Find out moreVisit their website or follow them on Twitter @NutshellLondon.


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