My expectations for Persian cuisine are very high ever since I had the chance to host some wonderful Couchsurfers from Tehran a few years ago. I still remember the fragrant smells of lemon rind and sautéed onions wafting all the way down the corridor, welcoming me into my own home before I even opened the door.
So it was with high hopes that I made reservations for lunch at Banibanoo, a newer Persian kitchen in the Las Ventas area of Madrid. I made contact with the owner first to be sure there would be some vegan options for Maddy and me to try, and we made the walk from the city center — it took us roughly around an hour, and we got to do some fun window shopping along the way.
Cool and Clean Decor, Market Style Service
The first thing you notice when you enter the restaurant is the cool interior with a handmade plant wall and the strikingly beautiful portrait of the owner staring at you. It’s intimate and cozy, a great place to lunch with a friend, or for a quick and casual business lunch. There’s also a large community table which is great for solo diners who’d like to read, write, or people watch while eating.
While several of the dishes were vegetarian, there were only four strictly vegan side dishes on offer, so we chose those along with the only vegan rice dishes. The starting drink stole the show and was the highlight of our meal. It’s called sekanjabin, and it’s a traditional Iranian drink most often enjoyed in summer — though it was very welcome in winter, as well!
It’s sweet, refreshing and stunningly simple. The floating rosehips, cucumber, and lemon slice make for a beautiful sight as well as taste. The acidity, sugar, and silky mouthfeel make this one of my favorite non-alcoholic drinks in Madrid!
Head to the Counter, Pick a Few Dishes
On to the dishes — you order food at the counter, and what’s on display is what there is for the day. I ordered a plate of mixed rice pilaf studded with orange rind, raisins, and grated carrot, with a side of herb-rubbed roasted cauliflower with pomegranate seeds and a side of sweet potato wedges with roasted red onion.
Maddy tried the lentil soup topped with fried onions, olive oil, and garbanzos. Also a side of hummus, and rice pilaf with fried onions and a few lentils. We were a bit surprised that a packaged Mexican tortilla was served on the side, as we were expecting Barbari, Sangak or other traditional foods.
Sadly, there were no vegan desserts on offer and after the long walk from the center, we definitely would have liked to indulge in a piece of the many gorgeous cakes on display. Instead, we finished with a tea and coffee and made our way to one of our favorite haunts in downtown Madrid for drinks.
In short, if you’re not a vegan I am sure there are plenty of dishes to love and enjoy at Banibanoo. If you’d like to give them a try yourself you will find them at Calle de las Mártires Concepcionistas, 19. Call for reservations at 810 52 11 27 or message them on their Facebook page, here.