Mowlana is not only Cardiff’s only Persian restaurant, but a locally-owned, family-run business. In other words: exactly the sort of place we love to share on here, and exactly the sort of place you should know about.
Two brothers- Ramin hosting, Soheil running the kitchen- have been feeding the capital since 2013. Despite being so close to the city centre, Mowlana still has an air of a well-kept secret, tucked away on Four Elms Road before it meets Clifton Street.
That means little footfall, perhaps: but Mowlana is just over ten minutes’ walk from Queen Street, so it is ideal for visitors to the city, as well as the regulars, from solo diners to large families, who come back here time and time again.
Basics matter here: a warm welcome, and good service. Mowlana is an inclusive place to eat: large groups (up to 30) can easily be accommodated, thanks to the way the restaurant is subtly divided into ‘zones’. That makes it ideal for celebrations or for family feasts: whether you need a meat free menu, or something for younger diners, you’ll find it here.
Unsurprisingly, the menu is packed with Persian classics. Some of the names might be unfamiliar- baghali polow or zereshk polow, perhaps? Yet Persian food is typically mild- not too sour, not too spicy- so there’s something for everyone.
That’s true if you are vegetarian or vegan, too. Almost all the starters are meat-free, from kashk-o-badenjan’s fried aubergine with buttermilk, mint and walnuts, dolmeh (stuffed vine leaves dressed with pomegranate sauce), or their hearty lentil soup with carrots, potatoes, onions and coriander.
But they go further. Even the main courses are rich in inclusive options: gheyme bademjan, traditionally a stew of lamb, aubergine and split peas in a saffron and tomato sauce, comes in a vegetarian version, as does ghorme sabzi, with its kidney beans and dried limes with herbs, spinach and leeks.
For many Mowlana, though, means their longstanding reputation for grilled meats: koobideh (skewers of grilled lean minced lamb), joojeh (chicken) marinated in saffron and garlic, or lamb chops (shishlik).
If you can’t decide between them- and we feel your pain- then mix and match: and if you’re particularly hungry, the grills come in huge sharing-sized portions which add chicken wings to the feast.
Mowlana has something for everyone, then: with a private garage next door, and an extraordinary no-corkage ‘BYOB’ policy, a memorable welcome is waiting.