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Shiraz delivers a Persian hug here in Singapore

There’s a lot to be said for fine-dining experiences: fancy modern cooking techniques, gastronomic flair, unique flavour combinations. However, many restaurants purporting to be fine dining are overly pretentious, creating a stuffy environment that makes it nigh on impossible to kick back and actually enjoy yourself. Give me good, honest, tasty food with an atmosphere that crackles like smoky bacon in a frying pan and I’m as happy as a pig in Chardonnay.

Shiraz on Clarke Quay epitomises this down-to-earth approach; here, only the food, the ambience and the diners matter.

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My other half and I visited on a typically busy Friday evening. The outside area was alive; a boisterous post-work crowd letting their hair down with beers, cocktails and the odd cheeky suck of a hookah pipe. In fact, Shiraz was packed to the gills both inside and out – a damn good sign for any restaurant – yet the overworked waiters and waitresses couldn’t have been friendlier and more helpful.

Being unfamiliar with Persian cuisine, we found the menu initially quite daunting, but charming waiter Vincent explained each dish in great detail and made several suggestions.

We opted for a platter of appetisers, which consisted of spinach infused with garlic, yoghurt and onion (borani esfanaj), a wonderful aubergine dish with an irresistible tang of mint (kashk-e bademjan), lamb meatballs with a controversial but wonderfully acidic pomegranate sauce (kufteh-ye anar-o pesteh) and wonderfully creamy vine leaves stuffed with steamed rice and herbs.

Just as our plates arrived, the oriental background music was ramped up a couple of decibels, and we were treated to the ample charms of a shapely in-house belly dancer, who glided around the restaurant shaking her bits to the hits for the delighted diners, including an enraptured elderly gentleman whose false teeth almost flopped into his naan bread.

For our main course, we again stuck with the sharing theme and opted for the house speciality platter combo, which featured soft and tender fillet mignon, spiced minced lamb that had the taste buds performing somersaults, and a slightly overcooked but still very enjoyable fish fillet with a yoghurt dressing.

A bottle of South Australian Shiraz (how could we drink anything else in this particular establishment?) was the perfect accompaniment – medium-bodied and full of fruity flavours.

We still had time for a few mouthfuls of perfectly balanced pistachio ice cream, washed down with a couple of cheeky vodka cocktails. A fabulous end to a fabulous evening.

For more of this, follow me @richardlenton.

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