Yuma Hashemi offers no fixed dishes, adjusting his menu each day dependent on his suppliers. James Stagg checks out his unique brand of Persian hospitality
Most operators aim to welcome guests as they would if they were entering their home. Yuma Hashemi at the Drunken Butler in London has taken this a step further by using furniture from his parent's home in Iran and channelling Persian hospitality to create a genuinely homely feel to his restaurant.
It feels very much like sitting in someone's front room, with Ercol tables and chairs arranged around a Persian rug and bureaus containing family photos, wine and books against the walls. "There are photos of my mum, grandmother and sister," says Hashemi. "These three women are my influences in cooking."
Like visiting someone's home, there is no menu as such to choose from at dinner, though there are some Á la carte options at lunch, along with a short tasting menu (£49). Hashemi operates only the short tasting menu or the set seven-course menu (£69) in the evening – having flirted with Á la carte but finding it too tricky to deliver – for which only basic descriptions exist on the menu (shore, sea farm, forest), providing the flexibility to be creative.
"I live near Broadway Market in Hackney and the first thing I have in the morning is oysters, so that I can choose the ones I like for the restaurant," explains Hashemi. "It's the same with the fishmonger: they'll suggest a certain fish each day. Our meat supplier Turner & George know our style, what we like and what the menu looks like. So if it says beef on the menu, they might give us any cut or breed."
It means Hashemi and sous chef Mattia Gerundio, who work in an open kitchen and personally deliver the dishes to diners, don't create disappointment when, for instance, they can't source a particular ingredient.
"We have no fixed dishes. We speak in the morning, we prep and we cook," Hashemi says.
When The Caterer visited, Irish oysters were paired with pistachio, providing a particularly Persian start to proceedings. It's a dish that has been on the menu since the restaurant opened. "We played with this combination for a long time to get it right," Hashemi says. "We do a dashi one too, which we love."
Japanese influences can be found elsewhere, with 'shore' featuring scallops paired with trout roe and nori, while the 'sea' dish includes monkfish with miso and a saffron mussel velouté. The monkfish is paired with a red wine and miso reduction, which provides a sticky, umami-rich kick within the smooth velouté.
"I don't point the Japanese influences out too much as I don't want to confuse people," adds Hashemi. "But I've worked with some Japanese chefs and I love their spirit of cooking."
One of the reasons he put a stop to Á la carte was the time it takes to prepare his meat dishes. The 'land/lamb' dish takes more than an hour to make and he will only cook it to order.
"You want to cook a nice piece of meat when the guest arrives," Hashemi says. "The lamb is grilled then rests for an hour before being heated and cut. You can't do this with Á la carte and the pressure of the guest looking at you."
The loin and rack of lamb is served with smoked potato and fermented garlic, along with barberries for the Persian slant. It arrives with an additional small bowl of gheimeh, a traditional Iranian lamb stew with lentils, on the side.
To accompany the dishes, diners can opt for a flight of wines from small producers chosen by Hashemi, or from the French-leaning list. Off-list wine is also held in the sideboards, which is occasionally opened on a Sunday when he offers only a "Persian Sundays" menu, featuring a generous selection of dishes one might find in an Iranian home, including the likes of tahdig – a rice dish with a celebrated crust – roast chicken and the gheimeh stew.
"On a Sunday we might open a magnum of something interesting for our wine flight – which is three glasses to go with our lunch," he says.
It all combines to create the feeling of spontaneity and generosity that Hashemi is looking for. "It's not deliberate, it just happened because I built the restaurant. People used to say it feels like home, and at first I didn't understand, but I realised they meant they feel comfortable."
From the menu
- Bay: Irish oysters from Carlingford with pistachio
- Shore: scallops, trout roe and nori
- Shore: langoustine with truffles
- Sea: monkfish, miso, saffron mussel velouté
- Farm: quail, chestnut mushrooms (purée, raw, fermented)
- Woods: onsen egg and Parmesan
- Land: Yorkshire lamb (rack and loin), smoked potato and barberries, fermented garlic, Gheymeh Bademjoon
- Forest: chocolate and blood orange
Tasting menu £69, wine pairing £55
20 Rosebery Avenue, London EC1R 4SX (www.thedrunkenbutler.com)
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