Samarqand restaurant is named after the second largest city in Uzbekistan and serves Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan food as well as food influenced from the neighbouring countries Russia, China and Mongolia and is located on the trendy Marylebone High Street. Mainly Russian speaking people go there (and mainly people in their early 20s that also enjoying drinking some vodka before going out after dinner) and I have seen very few foreigners the few times I have been there. The place also has some private rooms each equipped with flat screen TVs and DVD players, Karaoke machines and games consoles, as well as an inbuilt sound systems, things to make your party better in case you want to stay here.
I went to Samarqand with my boyfriend and my friend Lily and her new English boyfriend and she wanted to introduce him to me and also show him some of the traditional food, as Lily is Russian. We ordered a lot of food to share among ourselves, and to start we had the Russian typical salad “pod shuboi” which has layers of beetroot, potatoes, onions, herring, carrots, egg and mayonnaise. Note I did not try this as I do not like this salad at all, despite it being quite popular in Latvia as well, but I have to say it was very nicely presented here, and when we eat this salad in Latvia (not sure why it was called salad here as it is actually super heavy and has very little vegetables in it), it is not as nicely put together. We also had the fuchoza salad, that my boyfriend chose as he was not very inspired by the Central Asian food and this was the salad that for him was most recognisable and also least Central Asian, which consisted of rice noodles with aromatic beef and spicy carrots. The other starters we had were “soleniya”, which is a platter of pickled gherkins, green chillies, tomatoes and mushrooms, “khachapuri”, flat bread filled with cheese and “lamb cheburek”, pan friend flat meat pasty with Asian spices and herbs on a bed of spinach served chilli sauce. The pickles were amazing, although at £10 slightly too overpriced, as I could have bought all the things on that plate for about £3 in a Latvian supermarket, and the khachapuri and lamb cheburek I also thoroughly enjoyed. Note the khachapuri was super heavy though, full of cheese and I am sure it had about 2000 calories and I found it to be heavier than in other places where I have tried it, and so my health conscious boyfriend did not like it and did not want to eat it. But I am biased and I do like this type of food, as this does remind me of home, and it is one of those Russian legacies you can find in Latvia even these days.
At around 9m the restaurant filled up and next to us was a large table of young Russians celebrating a girl’s birthday eating only starters and drinking a serious amount of vodka. They seemed to know some people sitting on other tables that were not part of the birthday party which just shows there is a bit of a community that goes to Samarqand.
For the main course we shared the mix grill shashlik, which included charcoal grilled diced chicken, diced lamb, lamb kufta and chicken wings, and even though it was nice, for some reason I thought the mixed grills you can get on Edgware road were better, and also cheaper. We also shared “manty”, Lily insisted we have those, as her dad apparently makes these at home, and “manty” if you don’t know are steamed large meat dumplings with Central Asian herbs. I tried one and was not keen. We also had the Samarqand Plov, and I love plov, which is a traditional central Asian rice dish cooked with lamb, spices, onion and carrot and I have cooked this also at home, and I did find the plov extremely delicious.
The drinks in this place are seriously cool too with a Russian twist and Bloody Mary here is called “Bloody Masha” and even though it is not as good as I have had it in other places, I love the funky name.
When the bill arrives you can see that this place is extremely overcharged for what it serves, but as there are so few Central Asian restaurants in London (which is quite surprising considering how many Russians there are in London), they can afford to do so and still be full. I did enjoy the food, but you can get this type for much less (although in London it can be problematic with so many wealthy Russians). Note also this type of cuisine is not for everyone, and my boyfriend did not enjoy it at all (Lily’s boyfriend who is also British seemed to eat much more of this traditional food, but it could be because they are only together 1 month and he was trying super hard to make an amazing impression on her, and let’s see if he is that keen on Central Asian food in 1 years’ time).
Price for 4 with 2 bottles of wine and many many cocktails and service charge: £285.24