|Armenian Restaurant Joins High Road Line-up|
Garni makes a positive first impression on Nick Montagu
Restaurants come and go in the unpromising part of Chiswick High Road west of Sutton Lane , and those that hang on tend to get a bit depressed. So a warm welcome to Garni, an excellent and lively newcomer on the site of the doomed Libation.
Advertising itself as specialising in “ancient Armenian cuisine”, Garni offers a menu with wide choices. Unsurprisingly, there are echoes of Russia and Turkey , but there are also distinctive dishes, with an extremely helpful and friendly proprietress on hand to explain them. From a long list of hot and cold starters, we had outstandingly good and original red kidney beans, served cold with chopped walnut, onion and garlic; hot pancakes filled with spiced beef mince and served with sour cream; and lambs' tongues, hot with red peppers. All were excellent.
The same quality and care were apparent in our main courses. My wife's chicken with dried fruit came in generous quantities with a well-cooked pilaff; my barbecued pork was tender and well flavoured, served with aubergines, peppers and tomatoes and a choice of potatoes (oven baked or chips), burghul or pilaff. A large basket of hot bread (two types and a reasonable £1.50 extra) was replaced as we waited for our main courses.
Wine arrangements are idiosyncratic. Six generic Pays d'Oc wines, three white, three red, are available by the small or large glass; alternatively you can choose a bottle from the pretty good range that Garni sells as a wine shop, without additional markup. Prices for either option are ungreedy, with 250ml glasses £3.50 and our agreeable 2003 South African pinotage £11.50 a bottle. The proprietress hopes to stock Armenian wines shortly; meanwhile she gave us glasses of Armenian brandy (smooth and rather honeyed in taste) on the house.
Staff are attentive, friendly and keen to please. They do so without difficulty, and need not be over-anxious. The restaurant is spacious and light (a contrast with Libation's gloom), and noise levels are fine. Prices are extremely reasonable: with generous helpings, we could not manage a dessert, and our bill for three starters, two mains, bread and wine came to £48.20. Inevitably after just two weeks' opening Garni is still finding its feet and there is more to come – a mangal, or barbecue, is promised for the summer. But it is already a real find, serving interesting high quality food in pleasant surroundings, and it deserves to succeed. Try it, and make sure it doesn't prove another transient on that ill-fated stretch of road.
May 31, 2006