Iran in London: Persia in Peckham

The Iran in London entry for our World in London series comes from Sally Butcher, author of Persia in Peckham, and co-owner of Persepolis, London’s silliest Persian corner shop.

It is pretty easy to discover ancient Iran in London, as quite a lot of it is sitting at the British Museum. Modern Iran presents more of a conundrum.

There are actually huge numbers of Iranians living in London (upwards of 70,000). Trouble is, it’s quite hard to spot them, to the extent that you can live next door to one for twenty years without realising. They blend in, you see.

As they are self-confessed snobs, they do tend to gather in the (slightly) posher postcode areas (Bromley, Ealing, Finchley), which may explain also why the highest concentration of Iranian shops and restaurants is to be found in Kensington High Street. It is a very Iranian trait to open an identical business next door to a thriving shop or restaurant, which is why you will often find little clusters of Persian cafés or grocery shops in London.

There are in fact more than a dozen Iranian restaurants around town: Hafez in Hereford Road was one of the originals and remains one of the best, and Alounak in Westbourne Grove is perennially popular. Vegetarians beware: when Iranians go out to eat, they are usually in search of kebabs: conversely, if you happen to be a carnivore, you are in for a real treat. And there are perhaps upwards of 15 Persian supermarkets, usually rather sweetly known as Super This or Super That. Our own shop may be known as Persepolis in English, but in Farsi it is called Super Takhte Jamshid, which is the Persian name for the ancient palace.

The best time to meet London’s Iranian community is during the Persian New Year, Nowrooz, when even the most reticent ex-pat becomes enthused by the sights and sounds and tastes of home. The festival takes place at the time of the Spring equinox, and comprises many ancient Zoroastrian customs (growing wheat grass, jumping over fire).

Iranians not only shop, eat out and socialise more at this time, but there are a whole series of events around town, from pop concerts (yes, I do mean pop) to bonfire and picnic parties in London’s parks. We usually organise story-telling events for the New Year, wherein we turn the shop into a chai-khaneh (tea-house) for the evening.

“Tashrif biarin!” which is Persian for “Do pop in for a cuppa next time you’re passing!”.


“Persepolis In Peckham” by Leili Sreberny- Mohammadi
Uploaded by butbaba. – Videos of family and friends from around the world.

Do you have a favourite place for exploring Iraninan culture in London? Let us know in the comments below!

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  1. Claire Doble says:

    Great post – fascinating stuff. Must visit the shop next time I’m in peckham!

  2. It’s interesting to see how Iranians love kebabs even when they go outside Iran. Inside Iran, the restaurants offer not a very much varied list of dishes, but kebabs are always there.

    I’m living in Iran and work as a tour guide. So, I travel a lot in different corners of Iran. My point is that foreign travelers enjoy it, I can see it, but I’m a vegetarian and don’t see much choice for myself. Well, I may be in minority, but like to see how it’s attracting others particularly tourists.

    Rahman Mehraby
    Destination Iran Travel & Tours

  3. And we in warsaw dont have any persian shop. Pity. Their fruity beer is delicious!

  4. There are a couple of great Iranian restaurants in North London.

    http://londonworldrestaurants.blogspot.com/search/label/Iran

  5. Zoe Craig says:

    Works by 25 of the most promising Iranian contemporary artists will be on display at the Royal College of Art during Frieze Week, 10-15 October. The exhibition concludes with a charity auction of the exhibited works conducted by Christie’s. Visit http://www.magicofpersia.com to find out more.

  6. Persia says:

    It’s funny though if you look in the upper-left portion of the video, you can see Coca Cola machine. It’s just a matter of time before junk food has destroyed every culture and any sort of healthy living across all of humanity.

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