Baku London review – Azerbaijani cuisine

August 12, 2014
Pastry filled with mince, vegetables and lentils at Baku Azerbaijani restaurant, London
Gutab three ways – one of many Baku delights
The sign for Banku London, with the flame-topped logo
I was recently invited to eat at Baku London, a trendy restaurant which served authentic Azerbaijan cuisine, as well as offering halal meat and chicken.
Having never sampled food from that region, I was intrigued and excited to try something beyond the run-of-the-mill food I’ve become so accustomed to. In short, the restaurants I frequent tend to be of the Lebanese/Thai/Indian/burger joint variety. Delicious, but I was eager to try something new.
A huge draw for me was that all of Baku’s meat – except the duck – was halal. This was music to my ears, as the finely cooked meat is one of the highlights of Azerbaijan food.

So off I went to Baku London, to see what Azerbaijan could offer.

For those who don’t know, Azerbaijan is neatly nestled between Eastern Europe and Western Asia. It’s neighbours are Russia, Iran, Armenia and Turkey. And as a result, it’s cuisine lends from a variety of regional influences, with a hybrid flavour of Turkey, Iran and Lebanon. So staples of the cuisine are fresh herbs, flavoursome salads, and good quality meat and vegetables.

Similar to Turkish and Lebanese cuisine, and rather dissimilar to curry houses, the Azerbaijani cuisine lets the herbs do the talking, rather than loading up on spice. Yoghurts and dips are a rude-not-to-have accompaniment, rather than an optional extra.

Well informed staff

Now, you may be reading this thinking that I’ve really read up on Azerbaijani food before writing this post. Whereas in truth, I actually got all my information from the extremely helpful and well-informed service staff at Baku London itself, which brings me onto my review.
Before I launch into the cuisine itself, I have to tell you about the restaurant. Named after Azerbaijan’s capital city, Baku is situated on Sloane Street, a short walk from Sloane Square. The restaurant is definitely fine dining – its white, pristine décor and plush dining is decadent and grand. On arrival you definitely do feel that you’ve gone somewhere pretty fancy.
White regal seating inside Baku restaurant in London
A white round table for six with plush seating

Upstairs provides a fitting contrast to the white tea-room look, with a dark bar area with leather sofas and a more relaxed atmosphere, where a DJ is on hand to play Rihanna. So Baku is a great option if you’re having a get-together but want to stay in one place.

The service at Baku London was second to none, and the staff were certainly more attentive and knowledgeable then those at your local Nando’s (though I guess Peri-Peri chicken kinda speaks for itself).

Being a novice to Azerbaijan food, the helpful staff, particularly Vugan, who hails from the country, really helped talk me through the different dishes, and also recommended the most authentic items on the menu. Again this is another highlight of Baku, you don’t just get good food, you get a top-notch service and cultural enlightenment to boot.
So after a few stupid questions, met with very polite and informed answers, we ordered the following:
Lavash, Azerbaijani bread served with dips
Lavash
Lavash served on a long wooden tray

Starters at Baku London

A staple starter, the bread – or lavash, freshly made and buttered to order, was just beautiful, and the perfect match with the authentic humous and delicate tarmasalata.

Stuffed vine leaves for starters at Baku London
Stuffed vine leaves
After being strongly recommended by Vugun, we followed with the stuffed vine leaves. Initially I wouldn’t have chosen this from the menu, as I’d had vine leaves before at Lebanese and Moroccan restaurants, which are often stuffed with feta cheese, and I’ve not been overly-impressed. However, these vine leaves, with a herby rice filling, were served warm and worked perfectly with their yoghurt and herb dip (I must get their yoghurt recipe – it’s the best thing ever).
Scallops with cauliflower served on a round slate tray
Scallops with cauliflower
The scallops were light and meaty at the same time (is that possible?). But the real surprise in this dish was the battered cauliflower, which tasted similar to Indian pakoras. The battered cauliflowers – complete with cauliflower puree – were flavoursome, and also a nice departure from the traditional potato or butternut squash you often get served on a gourmet plate. Cauliflower is a seriously underrated vegetable.

This dish exemplified the fine dining gourmet aspect, which sat really well with the décor and overall feel of Baku. All you can eat it ain’t, rather a quality over quantity food experience, with presentation at its core. The delicate arrangement also not dissimilar to the Michelin-starred Benares restaurant (read my review here).

Gutab served with three sauces and pomegranate
Gutab three ways
Gutab three-ways, was a clever take on a traditional dish. Vugan informed me that Gutab is a pastry dish – quite like a pasty or samosa.  It has different fillings, such as mince, seeds and herbs, or vegetable. However the traditional gutab is a giant pasty which is sliced and shared among a family. For presentation, Baku’s modern take on the dish is to have smaller, starter-sized portions. The three-ways being three gutabs with three different fillings – pumpkin, mince and herbs and seeds respectively. There wasn’t quite enough spice in the mince filling for my liking, but that’s perhaps because I was comparing it to the traditional Indian samosa.
Shah plov, the King's rice
Shah plov
The inside of Shah plov, filled with chicken, pilau rice and herbs
A feast within a feast

Mains at Baku London

The Shah plov, which literally translated into the king’s pilau, was a Royal looking feast. By far it was the most unusual dish I tried at Baku London. Fragrant basmati rice cooked with meat and saffron in a puff pastry case, the portion was epic. There was more than enough to share. I was informed by Vugun that this was a dish traditionally served up at weddings. The effort that must go into making the dish more than justifies the fact that it’s rolled out for the most special of occasions.

The rice and dried fruit combo wasn’t quite for me, but that’s my personal preference. I’m the same with sultanas in cous cous. However, if you prefer your dishes to be more sweet than spicy, with the added wow factor, than this is definitely one to try. But I’d definitely advise on one Sha plov between two, unless you’re a real carb fiend.
Meat kebab cuts sprinkled with sumac and red onions
The meat kebab, which was slow cooked in an earthen pot, really showcased the Baku London meat offering. With quality cuts and delicate flavouring and a zingy onion dressing – I would recommend this dish with the lavash / bread.

Desserts at Baku London

The desserts were also unique and impressive. The pakhlava cheesecake married East with West, combining middle eastern baklava with a cheesecake topping.

Pakhlava - cheesecake with baclava base
Pakhlava
Rhubarb tart with vanilla ice cream and raspberry caviar
Rhubarb tart

 

Rhubarb tart served at Baku London

But my hands down favourite was the rhubarb tart. It had the freshest cream, the tastiest vanilla ice cream I’ve tried to date (and remember, I’ve had Italy’s gelato). Combined with a raspberry zing, meant that dessert definitely wasn’t an afterthought.

So overall, Baku London was a great dining experience, and a venue that is guaranteed to impress.

Baku London review in a nutshell                

Cost – between £7.50-11 for a starter. Mains vary between £14 for a kebab, to £35 for a whole chargrilled sturgeon fillet. If you’re feeling flush, you can sample sturgeon caviar for £100+.
Halal – yes, except for the duck.
Great if… you want a unique dining experience, and you’re a fan of middle eastern cuisine.
Not so great if… you like your food to be spicy hot.
HalimaBobs

About the Author

HalimaBobs

I’m not a makeup artist, chef, lifestyle guru or stylist. I’m just me. And like you, I’m trying to make the best of most things, only I’m sharing my warts-and-all thoughts along the way.

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