Kateh: Disorganised, rather than charming (April 2014)

Kateh is a restaurant specialising in Persian food, located in Little Venice down a quaint side-street, on a site formerly occupied by the Green Olive. My dining comrade and I had been meaning to go for some time, it being local and also having being recommended by a Persian friend. When we arrived on a weekday night, the place was almost full, generally a compelling endorsement for any restaurant. However, from there it went somewhat downhill. We were greeted in a rather brusque fashion by the owner, told our table was not ready (since the previous guests were finishing their coffee) and left standing in the tiny vestibule of the restaurant, between the entrance and the dining room itself. We could see there was one table still free, but were not offered this. 5 minutes elapsed with no change. We were beginning to feel a bit miffed by this stage. The manager then came out, not explicitly to apologise but to run (in a slight Fawlty Towers-like moment) to the next-door pub in an attempt to locate the guests who should have occupied the spare table. Being unable to find them, we were eventually shown to the table and given a glass of (slightly too sweet) Prosecco by way of begrudging apology. Despite being run by an Italian, the menu is predominantly Persian. We were impressed by its length and variety, but my vegetarian comrade noted with some disappointment that although there was a broad range of starters from which she could choose, the main options were more limited for non-meat/ fish eaters, totalling just two, one of which was a fairly anonymous-sounding vegetable stew. We did eventually decide (crab cake and lamb for me; grilled aubergine and stew for my comrade) and were in the process of literally placing our order when the manager left our table to serve food to another. Nonplussed would not even describe our emotion accurately, particularly given the lack of apology; risible would be more appropriate. When the food came, it was good, but by no means excellent. Of the four dishes above, my lamb was probably the stand-out, pleasantly lean meat accompanied by pomegranates and mint. The service remained erratic throughout. One compensating factor was the wine list: extensive and varied, especially for a neighbourhood restaurant and the manager did at least seem enthusiastic and knowledgeable on this topic. We enjoyed a fine (and quite reasonably priced) Austrian Zweigelt. It is unlikely we will be returning. Maybe we were just unlucky (and clearly Kateh has to be doing something right to be this full), but there are certainly better local options in Little Venice: the Red Pepper for Italian and Gogi for Korean, to name but two.