Assal is just down the street from Le Chef Masgouf (the location for our “I” dining visit) and boasts an impressive array of traditional Persian pastries and sweets for just about any taste – provided you don’t mind the sugar rush that never fails to follow. Absolutely delicious, excellent knowledgeable and friendly dude behind the counter, and all for one very reasonable price.
Now you’re here, what to eat?
Well, pretty much everything! The top counter has the real traditional favourites including gelabi (in two forms) and a roll consisting of a thick, chewy core made of dates wrapped in delicate flaky pastry and topped with crushed pistachios. Gelabi is hard to describe, but for the most part is sugar. I learned that the Persian version differs from the Indian gelabi in that Persians use yoghurt instead of flour to make the mix. This batter of sorts is then drizzled into hot oil to give it form and then soaked in a honey syrup for that overwhelming sweetness. The second form looks like an oval ball of dough and is soft and almost cake like rather that the crispy bite of the regular version.
There are also a good number of cookies and bars that are worth trying. I won’t go through all of them (partially because I have no idea what some of them are) but the fan favourites were a almond shortbread bar topped with toasted almonds glazed in honey and biscuit jam sandwich topped with pistachios.
Fancy a chat and want to learn a bit more?
Despite technically being closed (they close at 9pm and I got there a minute late!), the guy behind the counter was happy to talk about the various sweets and share his knowledge of how to make them. I probably learned more in 5 minutes talking to him than I did in several years of eating in Saudi. He’s uber friendly and its definitely worth a few minutes of your time to find out a little bit more about what you are going to eat.
I also learned they sell various Persian ingredients including directly imported pistachios for just £19/kg. These nuts looked gorgeous and miles better than the offerings at Tesco or even Holland & Barrett. I’ll be back shortly to stock up as I love me some pistachios as a snack.
Sounds brilliant, but what’s this going to cost me?
Actually, very little at all. I got a selection of about 7 or 8 different pastries (and several of each kind) for just £6.50. Now this was more than enough to satisfy 5 of us, particularly when all of us have a sweet tooth or three. You just don’t get that level of value for money in this city – hell I’d be surprised to find that in the souks back home! Brilliant little shop and the perfect way to finish off our Iraqi meal.
Find Assal here
14 Connaught St
London, W2 2AF
020 7705 2905