You wait years for a restaurant from the old Silk Road to arrive in London, then two open in the same month. Samarkand, named after the oldest inhabited city in central Asia, has already launched in Charlotte Street, Fitzrovia, with a menu led by the Uzbek national dish plov (pictured), beef short ribs cooked to a recipe handed down through three generations of the family of founder Sanjar Nabiev.
Other dishes from this ancient crossroads of cultures and cuisines include a soup of butternut squash and liquorice, wonderfully named jiz biz (lamb chops with potato cake) and lagman – hand-pulled fried noodles with lamb shoulder. Fittingly for a city that spent centuries under Russian rule, Samarkand stock more than 40 vodkas from around the world.
Five miles across London in Battersea’s Northcote Road — or 1,000 kilometres west near the Caspian Sea – Jan, opening on September 30, takes inspiration from the cuisines of Iran and Turkey.
The kitchen is dominated by a medieval-style charcoal oven turning out traditional breads and dishes such as Caspian-spiced roast chicken in cardomom and rosemary broth or slow-roast shoulder of lamb with pomegranate glaze.