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Expat Guide to Living in Tehran

UPDATE 20 January 2016: Bread, Sourdough Bread!! 🙂 Thanks to information from reliable informant, Hanna Takemoto, Palladium now stocks great (better than Iran-good) sourdough bread. It looks the real deal, weighs the real deal, and IS the real deal. Located in the breadstore outside the supermarket entrance, near the shopping trolleys and the foot of the escalators. Highly recommended for those longing for luxury bread!

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For those of you living in Tehran, or visiting for a good while, you might like a list of good places to go and do things, and some help finding things. Tehran is confusing for the visiting foreigner; you have to find or know a place for every last thing. So, let me try to steer you in the right direction for things like eating, shopping, drinking coffee etc. I will start with the categories:

  • Shopping (where to buy stuff);
  • Eating (where to get decent nosh);
  • Out and About (some ideas for places to go to in Tehran and surrounds); and
  • Kids-friendly (some tips on places that are kid-friendly, kid-suitable, or family-friendly).

You will note some are not yet completed – it is a work-in-progress and will be updated with more information, reviews etc as we go on. I will also put up a list of useful telephone numbers, vets, dentists, doctors etc. with the disclaimer that they have worked for me, but I don’t stand behind their services (nor, sadly, have any kickbacks been offered or received). Caveat emptor!

This posting will change often as I update it, and so it will be a good idea for you to bookmark it for checking back regularly.

Also happy to take tips, and answer questions, if there is something specific you are looking for.

  • Shopping (where to buy stuff):
    • Basiji Market (or Meisam Bazaar), also called the Farmaniyeh Shopping Centre (which REALLY overstates its size!) located on the corner of Farmanieh Street and Ariya Street in Farmaniyeh is a nice little shopping corner with a few fruit and veg places, a ceramics shop for your cheap dinnerware, and a very decent corner store. This corner store in particular is useful for western goods, including ‘pickled chicken‘ (if you have to ask what that is, you don’t eat it). You can get Nespresso capsules, western breakfast cereals, burrito and taco kits, imported cheeses and sauces, and much more. A good spot! Where on the map:
    • Palladium Mall, located on Moqadas Ardabili Street, (best accessed from Aref Street), Zafaraniyeh is a new mall with a great supermarket in the basement floor. A food court, children’s playroom, and very good toy shop are some of the other features. The supermarket has rare features such as passable croissant, mighty good rucola, the best sparkling water in Iran (VIP) and a wide assortment of other goodies. A great fruit and veg section with things you won’t find anywhere else including a good array of herbs and spices. And VERY good quality fish (but stick to the Persian Gulf fish, not the toxic Caspian fish). And they have genuine (Italian) Parmesan cheese! Where on the map:
    • Miiv – A fabulous ice-cream maker. They are the best in Iran for sure, and probably rate up there with the best in Europe. They only deliver, making seasonal products – blood orange sorbet, for example – and great quality old favourites like French Vanilla, the quality is superb. Home delivery only. Tel: 0910 1180357
    • Hyperstar – see my earlier blog posting on this as a shopping place operated a la Carrefour. This mall is located off the Bakeri Expressway in the far southwest of the city in Kooy E-eram. Inferior to Palladium for the range and quality of their products, it is larger still and has a broad selection of department-store products including TVs, DVDs, electricals, sporting goods etc. Where on the map:
    • Ilio – Situated in the Modern Elahiyeh complex, corner of Afriqa Blvd and Bihar Street, Elahiyeh (just off the Chamran Expressway). While ostensibly a chocolatier (and their chocolates are by far the very best in Iran) (a la Belgian chocs), this is a great place to go for a superb coffee and also for excellent ice-cream. Premium ice-creams, such as their pistachio, are sublime – but be warned, the explosion of roast pistachios in this ice-cream makes it very rich indeed. They also have an ice-cream only outlet in the food court at Palladium Mall (see above). Where on the map:
  • Eating (where to get decent nosh):
    • Eclipse (Fresh bagels, burgers, and sandwiches) – Situated in North Dibaji Street, Kamraniyeh, close to the south-eastern side of the Italian Residence, this is a new place and a VERY welcome addition (start?) to good eats around Kamraniyeh/Farmaniyeh. The bagels, panini, and burger rolls are all freshly baked on the premises. It is possible to buy just the bagels – par-baked – also to take home. They deliver pretty much anywhere in the north. It is a branch of the same award-winning sandwich store in Copenhagen (Soren Norbys Alle 2, 2300, Kobenhavn S). I can highly recommend the Pulled Lam (sic) bagel, and La Bomba (La Bomba was the Danish award-winner)! They do burgers, baguette, and steak sandwiches. Ask for the owner, Shayan! Tel: 021 26450450.  Where on the map:
    • Sam Cafe (coffee and sandwiches) – located on the 2nd floor of the Sam Centre in Fereshteh Street, Elahiyeh, this is a very cool spot for a GREAT coffee and some pretty agreeable foods like croissant, sandwiches, terrific little cakes, and waffles with strawberries, this place looks and feels like a cafe from San Francisco or Soho. Brilliantly friendly (and hip) staff. Excellent fresh juices as well. A top spot to sit with or without friends and just relax. I highly recommend one juice in particular they have, called Sharbat-e Tokhme Sharbati (for more on this great drink, see: http://turmericsaffron.blogspot.se/2012/07/sharbat-e-tokhme-sharbati-chia-seeds.html) which is a traditional Iranian-Style Summer Drink; super refreshing. Where on the map:
    • Ilio (coffee and ice-cream) – see above.
    • Monsoon (Asian fusion – trendy) – Located in the Gandhi Centre, Gandhi Street, in north Tehran (another location in Goldan seems to have closed down now), this trendy lounge/cafe serves something different from the usual Iranian restaurant. It is principally Asian food with some slight western touches, one might say. The food is quite good for Iran, but expensive. Eat there, by all means, but don’t expect to be wowed by the food despite the stiff price. Decor is cool, soundtrack is usually uber-cool. Service in English is certainly possible. Tel: 021 8879 1982. Where on the map:
    • Parkway (Asian – elegant trendy) – Situated on the 8th floor of the Sam Centre in Fereshteh Street, Elahiyeh, Parkway is a nice change of flavours from Iranian food. Asian trendy, looking and sounding (great soundtrack!) like something from cool New York, a little reminiscent of the wine bar at New York’s MOMA, it is very nicely decorated and a relaxing place to eat away from the hustle and bustle of the nearby Valiyasr area. Expensive, of course (maybe to make sure the place is kept pretty much only for the well-healed in the city!), the service is quite good with a number of staff circling at any one time and some speaking English; one or two speaking very well. Try the Mongolian beef, or the chicken or shrimp dumplings. The Beijing Duck, while not especially close to the real deal in China, is more than Iran-good and well worth having for the great change of flavour from kebab. Parking on-site is free (access from the rear of the centre, Bahar Street). Where on the map:
    • The Terrace (international – trendy) – located in very leafy East Maryam Street, Elahiyeh, The Terrace is a cafe that has groovy music, and a nice ambience, at least if you sit upstairs and outside on the actual terrace. Inside feels like an ice-cream shop for atmosphere and colours. Parking is impossible (Maryam is a very busy but tiny street); take a taxi. The menu is a little pedestrian; pizzas, paninis, pastas etc are the order of the day. Pretty good drinks with fresh juices and mocktails available. Expensive, again aiming for the more well-healed Tehranis. Where on the map:
    • Diwan (Fine dining) – Situated on the 8th floor of the Sam Centre in Fereshteh Street, Elahiyeh, this is arguably the premier restaurant in Tehran. You can expect beautiful decor (lots of works by modern Tehran artists are on the wall), a great soundtrack, nice ambiance, a good percentage – but not all – of the staff speak some English. The menu is ‘western fusion’, and pretty good, although in my view not actually worth the very steep price. Friends say it used to be better; that the food quality has gone downhill. But if you have visitors, or are a visitor, and you want to see where all the rich go to dinner in Tehran, this is the likeliest place. You will not get out for under 80USD a head, and likely much more. Thank goodness you don’t have to add wine to the bill! Where on the map:
    • Cafe du Reza Golaie (Traditional Persian food, cool music cafe) – This music cafe at number 172, in 30th Tir Street, close to the Glass and Ceramic Museum, and the Chaim Synagogue, and due north of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The walls are festooned with old photos of rockers and stars, the soundtrack for the place is all western and variable, including my daughter’s favourite Michael Jackson. And the food is pretty darn good, really simple stuff and, well, at least Iran-good. The menu is Iranian food, with some western touches, like an Iranian roast chicken with English-style roast veggies. The borsht is far better than its Russian namesake, and very good on a cold day. A tiny hole-in-the-wall kind of place, it is easily missed except for the crowd of locals lining up for a scarce table. It is possible to book, although I understand answering the phone is not their strength. Possible even, for a large enough group, to book the whole thing and close the curtains. A well-worthwhile place to take western visitors to show that some touches of western style exist. Tel: 09124430694 (ask for the owner, Shervin). Where on the map:
    • Burgerland (burgers – home delivery and eat-in) – This burger bar located in Andarzgu Blvd, in the north, not to be confused with the nearby Home Burger, is a good spot for a good quality western style hamburger. With just a few burgers on their menu, they do them well; juicy burger, double burger, farm burger and a few others. They do pretty passable chips too. Beware that the burgers, when loaded up with sauces, get a bit sloppy after delivery, although their home-delivery is very fast. And those answering the phone for your order always speak English and are pleasant to deal with. Tel: 021 2239 8600. Where on the map:
    • Murano (Italian – home delivery) – Anyone here for long realises that the vast majority of take-away pizza in Tehran are simply crap, and not at all calorie-worthy. But with a handful of outlets around Tehran, including Gheytarieh and Pasdaran in the north, and one at Gandhi I believe, Murano is about the best home delivery pizza in Tehran. Suitably tasty thin-crust pizzas, the Inferno is what everyone orders when they want some spice. The vegetariana, parmigiana, and margerita are all Iran-good. You can very often get English-speakers answering the phone if you persevere, and delivery is fast (usually have it in half an hour or so).  Tel: 021 2207 7639
    • Taj Mahal (Indian – home delivery) – located in the Taj Mahal Hotel, near the Hemmat Expressway, this Indian Restaurant delivers. Allow a good couple of hours for delivery; so call around 7pm and you will be able to eat around 9pm. The phone number is for the hotel, so just ask to be connected to the restaurant. Delivery is in the final price, and usually comes hot and fresh by taxi with one of the staff. The food is pretty good, and favourites include palak paneer and aloo ghobi. The chicken tikka masaala is also more than Iran-good. Tel: 021 8803 5444
    • Chai Bar (cafe and sandwiches) – located in Salimi Street, (I think the area is called Hekmat, near Karimi Street), this cute garden cafe is situated in the grounds of what is a calligraphy museum these days. Parking is not especially easy; taxi is better. It is a lovely peaceful garden for sitting for a coffee, or a good fresh juice, but also good to eat. Sandwiches are the main fare; try the Cheese steak sandwich. They are not international standard, but Iran-good, but it is a really nice place to sit and chew the fat with friends. Where on the map:
    • Leon 1960 (western, trendy, brunch speciality) – open all hours, but a real favourite for brunch, Leon 1960 is, liked several other places listed, located on the 8th floor of the Sam Centre in Elahiyeh. A lovely view of the mountains, and open terrace if the air is not too chunky that day, it is actually a lovely place to sit and enjoy a big plate of bacon and eggs, or panini, or fruits. Fresh juices and mocktails are as good as you might expect, and the coffee is very agreeable. Where on the map:
    • Saboos (bakery, cafe, breakfast, sandwiches) – located in Elahiyeh, on the corners of Alef Street and Javanan – it is the first northern exit off the west-bound Chamran after the Parkway Bridge. The surroundings are cool, Seattle chic, I guess might sum it up. The crowd is also pleasantly modern. The food is very good, as is the coffee. Omelettes, baguettes, and burgers are the things to order. The bread from the bakery also more than passable, but not sourdough last time I looked. Where on the map:
    • Yas Restaurant (elegant Iranian food, lunch and dinner) – located on val Yasr Blvd 2627, adjacent to the entrance to Melat Park (opposite the bronze umbrella-man statue. Is it an elegant place to have lunch and dinner (not especially family-friendly, but possible). Some English from the staff, and menus in English. Very good for things such as lentil soup, kebab of course, and the stews and khoresh. A bit pricey for Iranian food, but worth it for the nice surroundings and linen. Where on the map:
    • Stay tuned – always more to come…..
  • Out and About (some ideas for places to go to in Tehran and surrounds);
    • Carpet Museum
    • Glass and Ceramic Museum
    • Golestan Palace
    • Niavaran Palace
    • Saad Abad
  • Kids-friendly (some tips on places that are kid-friendly, kid-suitable, or family-friendly).
    • Niavaran Park
    • Qeitarieh Park
    • Fire and Water Park
    • Melat Park
  • Handy Phone Numbers
    • Vet: Dr Ibrahim Abdehou (speaks some English, but less crossed wires if you have some Farsi help). Does house calls, and can source good quality pet food and cat litter (surprisingly hard to find in Iran). Tel: 09122171071.
    • General Practitioner: Dr Jamshid Ansari – A very friendly Iranian-German GP, he speaks English and German fluently, does house calls, with strong network of specialists for anything particular that needs attention. Tel: 09123707812.
    • Dentist: Dr Keyhani – a very friendly fluent English and Danish speaking dentist, he operates from his clinic in Farmaniyeh, beside the Farmaniyeh Hospital. Tel: 021 26110052.