Persian food carries us away to far away lands. It speaks of flavoursome spices and exotic fruits, of saffron and pomegranate, slow-cooked meats and the softest bread.
Today’s Persian cuisine traces its roots to ancient ingredients and recipes, enriched by flavours from around the world.
Very few of us will have the opportunity to travel to Iran however, for the past ten years, Shiraz Gold Coast has been satisfying our appetite for Persian food.
Having gained high praise and many awards for their cuisine, owner Erfan Jalilian and his business partner Mohammad Shirmehrjerdi have opened Shiraz Persian Restaurant + Bar in one of the Gold Coast’s most iconic locations, the former ‘Pink Poodle’ site under Mantra Wings, Surfers Paradise.
Shiraz Restaurant, is also iconic.
Named after the city Shiraz, the capital of Persian art, culture and literature on the famous Silk Road, precious metals and spices were traded there for tens of thousands of years. Shiraz was a city where kings were entertained. It’s also believed that shiraz grapes originated there.
Seating over two hundred, Shiraz Restaurant + Bar offers extensive indoor and outdoor dining. The dining room is illuminated by the backlit bar and the signature turquoise feature columns, a baby grand piano in one corner facing Shiraz’s signature mirror, while the terrace brings a cosmopolitan vibe to alfresco dining in one of the best climates in the world.
The new restaurant in fully licensed, with shiraz wine a feature of their expanded drinks menu. Local beer is on tap, a feature of the drinks menu being exotic cocktails and mocktails. No drink is more beautiful than the Persian Love cocktail, its ruby-coloured mix of cranberry, mixed berries and Chambord topped with a hat of Persian fairy floss.
As well as drinks, the food menu has also expanded. A larger, more sophisticated kitchen has led to a greater variety of grills, seafood and slow-cooked dishes which are absolutely delicious.
If you have never tried Persian food before, ordering from the extensive menu may seem daunting. Names of dishes may be new to you. While some foods, such as lamb shank, prawns and fish are familiar, others such as Negini Kabob (chicken-stuffed lamb kabob, its name literally meaning ‘the diamond in the ring’), are unfamiliar but intriguing.
To make it easier, the menu offers a banquet selection. Dishes are best shared, so let the chef decide.
Otherwise, if the names of the dishes are unfamiliar, check out the photographs and read the excellent descriptions to help you with your choice. Most dishes come with either bread or rice. Choose an entrée with bread to share (the eggplant dip is particularly good) and then a couple of protein dishes which come with rice. You can always order more later.
In a large group, we enjoy a feast, beginning with a Mezze platter of four dips and two different breads, all deliciously fresh and vibrant.
Then platters of skewers and kabob arrive, most accompanied by a specialty rice. Other meat and seafood dishes can be ordered separately.
The third meaning of shiraz is of course its colour. What strikes me is the kaleidoscope of colour on the plates, from the red of beetroot to the yellow of saffron, and green spinach to red tomato, this is vibrant food brimming with goodness and subtle flavour rather than heat, unlike many other Eastern cuisines.
“Iranian cuisine is quite diverse,” Erfan tells us. “Dishes as well as food habits vary from region to region. In large cities, rice and bread are the favourite staple dishes. Rice is slow-cooked, a process involving washing, boiling then steaming. Much of our meat is slow-cooked as well. We have both Chelo (plain rice) as well as Polo rice here at Shiraz. Polo is like a pilaf, cooked with other ingredients, and there are many variations on this dish.”
The different types of rice we are served are intriguing, specialty dishes in themselves. Each separate grain holds unique flavours gained from other ingredients in the cooking process, quite special as rice is so often underrated.
There’s plenty of meat, for sure, and it’s all halal, but all diners are catered for with gluten-free and dairy-free clearly marked. There are also separate menu sections for vegan and vegetarian, diners who regularly frequent Shiraz.
Lamb neck is the best-selling dish, with Lamb shank (one of our personal favourites) coming in a close second. The shank is marinated in Persian spices and slow-cooked, achieving fall-off-the-bone tenderness. It is served with intriguing Baghali Polo rice (green rice mixed with broad beans and dill). These slow-cooked dishesare our favourites, and we’ll order both chicken and seafood dishes on our return visit.
Leave room for a cup of Persian tea and the freshest baklava and saffron ice cream. We personally recommend them as exquisite!
“Most of all, in Iran food is indulgent and extraordinary. It makes up a major part of both our family festivities and our nightlife. It’s common to go out to a movie, then to dine out; the streets are full of people, with restaurants closing around midnight. For us, food is a great hobby and a major part of life.”
Exotic, fragrant and intriguing, this is food which helps us to slowly learn about a culture that is different to our own.
‘Niki-o-porsesh’ the neon sign says: ‘ Follow your gut’.
Shiraz Persian Restaurant + Bar, 2893 Gold Coast Highway, Surfers Paradise QLD 4217 Ph: 07 5679 3941 Open Mon-Sun 11:30 am – 9:30 pm
Note: Shiraz offers BYO Mondays, pickup and home delivery. See website for details. Follow their social media for special events.
Good Food Gold Coast dined as guests of Shiraz Restaurant + Bar.