It was ages ago that my friend Jay told me about the Persian cafe on Richmond Hill and I was immediately keen to try it. Persian food really appealed. However, I rarely walk up Richmond Hill as it’s in the opposite direction to the centre of the town as I make my way in from Twickenham. I pass the cafe when I go to my book group on Tuesday evenings in The Roebuck at the top of Richmond Hill, but the cafe is only open during the day, Wednesdays to Sundays, so it wasn’t an option for an early supper on my way to talk books.
Then yesterday, heading into Richmond in the afternoon, I suddenly remembered R&H Cafe and got off the bus early and walked up the hill. And I’m so glad I did; what a fantastic find.
The inside of the cafe is simple but with attractive Persian (Iranian) touches with beautiful wall hangings and cushions on the wooden seats. Zahna runs the cafe in memory of her parents, Ruby and Hossein, who, she tells us, ‘enriched many people’s lives’ through their charity work and business in Iran and she wants ‘to continue their legacy’. This ambition carries through into the ambience and service, which almost makes you feel like a guest in someone’s home.
All food is prepared from scratch; the beans for the coffee come from a micro roastery in East London. There are also some good tea choices – ‘Fresh mint & Persian Lime’, ‘Cardamon & Black Tea’. Zahna says the food is ‘simple’ with ‘no sophistication’ but it seemed to me a glorious combination of ‘simple’ and ‘exotic’.
I wanted just a coffee and cake – it was mid afternoon and I’d already had lunch. There was an enticing display of homemade cakes on a table; huge watermelons, butternut squash, oranges and other fruit and veg lay underneath. I sat down and ordered a flat white (£3) and a purple carrot muffin (£5). I had to ask what the muffin was and once I was told it was ‘purple carrot’ couldn’t resist trying it.
Carrot cake can be a bit heavy but this was wonderfully light and tasted delicious; it was one of the best cakes of this kind I’ve had. It did taste different to an orange carrot. Purple carrots are known to be intensely sweet with a slight peppery taste. The cake however wasn’t too sweet and its lightness meant I didn’t feel ‘stuffed’ after eating it. The coffee was excellent too. I knew I’d have to return for lunch one day soon, but meanwhile settled for buying a pot of their carrot jam to take home.
I’ve never had carrot jam before! When my son popped round to my house later in the afternoon we had a tasting and thought it was good and somewhere between a ‘jam’ and ‘chutney’. Freddie (4½) wanted a taste too and liked it so much he wanted more!
Today’s been a serious gardening day. I decided to take a break and go back to the cafe for some lunch. The menu is an all encompassing breakfast/lunch affair. A lot of the dishes involve eggs on top of sauces, tomatoes, walnuts and feta cheese. A few dishes are served only after 1pm and I liked the sound of ‘Shishandaz’: roasted butternut squash, pomegranate molasses & walnut sauce, served with bread and flavoured yoghurt (£14). There were kofte served with split yellow peas, barberry, pistachio, dried plum in savour tomato sauce with bread and salad (£16.50). However, with the prospect of further gardening ahead of me, I decided I needed something quite light. It was also warm and humid outside, so I wanted something fresh too. I chose a salad of Watermelon, feta and walnuts (£12).
It was as simple as it sounds with black sesame seeds sprinkled over the top. There was nothing fancy about it but you could tell it really was freshly put together. The watermelon was delicious and great with the feta and walnuts. It was just the kind of lunch I wanted. It was also huge; I really couldn’t eat all that watermelon! But I was immediately offered a takeaway box so I could take the leftover melon home with me, which was a great touch. I think it would be a good dish to have with someone else and have another dish to share too.
I may have had my fill of watermelon (nice as it was) but decided I had room for a slice of their Orange Blossom Cake (£4) and a macchiato (£2.80).
Slightly heavier than the carrot cake of the day before, but beautifully moist with a sure but not overpowering taste of the orange blossom. It was really good. I can see I’ll have to exercise a terrific amount of willpower not to be heading up to R&H Cafe on a regular basis for cake!
I asked if the gallery was open and negotiated a very steep and narrow spiral staircase to the next floor. Here was an interesting display of Persian items to buy. There were just a few things; clearly carefully chosen, and was nice to have a look around, though I didn’t buy anything.
I really liked R&H Cafe and I’m sure it will become one of my regular haunts. In a town full of chain cafes and restaurants, it’s wonderfully unique with a special feel to it.
R&H Cafe is open Wednesday-Sunday from 9am to 5pm (6pm on Sat & Sun). It’s closed Monday and Tuesday.