Everyone needs a cosy, informal place to eat just down the road from their house. Turn the wrong way from my house and the first place you come to is KFC, known for the amount of litter its customers throw into my garden. Turn the right way and walk for 10 minutes and you get to Sarab, a BYO Persian restaurant on the Ewell Rd in Surbiton. To be honest, I don’t know why I’m bothering to review Sarab as few will be inclined to make the trip to the Surb, despite the fact that it’s quicker to get to and from town than from your crackhead-ridden Zone 2 grief hole via the excellent express train services from Waterloo. And did I mention the trains run until 1am?
Sarab serves hearty, authentic Iranian food in a cafe-like atmosphere. As I said, it’s Bring Your Own™ (with no corkage, and they bring you a massive jug of tap water straightaway, something I’m a big fan of) so you can splash out on an excellent bottle from the well-stocked (if a little overpriced) offy next door.
We order a couple of starters, Kashk ‘o’ Bademjan (a superb, rich aubergine dip containing fermented whey) and hummus (light, and spiced with cinnamon). The starters are all veggie, and are best enjoyed with naan bread. The naan bread is very special indeed, flat, light, vast and most importantly rolled out and baked in front of you using a rickety wood-fired oven in the corner. This bread is divine, and it doesn’t get fresher.
Mains - I plummed for today’s special which was the Koofteh Sarab, a giant scotch-egg/meatball thing, the likes of which I’ve never seen before. Well spiced lamb surrounds a whole plum (see what I did there), a whole egg, some walnuts and peas. All this is served in a rich tomato sauce. It was a strange dish, but excellent. My companion went for Sultanee, chargrilled minced lamb kebabs with a skewer of lamb chunks on the side. All this is seved with light saffron rice (which is great when we added butter on the advice of the owner). The meat was cooked to perfection, most, flavorsome and tender.
The only criticism is the portion control, they give you LOADS. It’s ridiculous. Unless you’ve got tapeworm you don’t have a chance of clearing the plate. I’m still full now and I’m writing this 12 hours later. It’s a shame to waste so much food.
The vibe is buzzing, there’s a few Iranians in which is always good to see, the service relaxed, brisk and efficient. It’s family-owned and it’s great to see the different generations in action. As I said before, the oven in the corner is a real highlight, you can smell the bread cooking and see each one being bashed on to the counter, flattened out and cooked in seconds.
Obviously we were too full for desserts so we asked for the bill. This is where Sarab truly comes into it’s own. All that for 33 quid! This is a great neighborhood restaurant, as authentic as it gets (you can imagine this is by the road into Tehran if you ignore the Games Workshop-style geek gaming den across the road and all the antique shops). If you are in the area it’s definitely worth a visit. I don’t know anywhere else that does bread like they do. It’s 2 minutes from the Tolworth junction on the A3 so do stop off for lunch next time you’re on your way to the Home Counties, there’s a good chap?
284 Ewell Rd
Surrey KT6 7AQ
020 8972 1152