11 January 2020 2 Benson St, Middlesbrough TS5 6JQ, UK

Following it’s recent rave reviews, a date with the Persian Cottage became a must, but could the restaurant severing Middle Eastern cuisine live up to its glowing reputation?

The Persian Cottage on 2 Benson Street, Linthorpe Road
The Persian Cottage on 2 Benson Street, Linthorpe Road

The Persian Cottage had long been on my list as a Middlesbrough restaurant to try.

Having passed the bizarre looking venue on one of my early ‘get to know' Middlesbrough’s walk abouts, the restaurant situated along the upper half of Linthorpe Road felt like a place that needed to be experienced.

Set back from the main road, and housed in what in other circumstances could easily be considered a haunted house, I reasoned that if a restaurant as unique as this, set away from the beaten track, could survive the unforgiving dining economy it must be good.

And from the evidence I could find, these thoughts seemed to be well founded.

The Trip Advisor rating for The Persian Cottage is off the charts, with it being rated one of the best places to dine at in Middlesbrough for several years running.

It was clear that this was a place that had built a glowing reputation with locals for excellence – yet up to this point I hadn’t taken the plunge.

But then this December came national attention through MasterChef and Guardian food critic Jay Rayner.

Calling it “a polished gem” within the headline, Rayner went on to praise this Middles Eastern Grill house as “a real cracker.”

Having excitedly gulping down this review, the need to experience this cuisine for myself felt a must, and so a table was expediently booked for The Persian Cottage.

A view from inside The Persian Cottage
A view from inside The Persian Cottage

“Never lower than an 8 out of 10”

Looking to make a night out of it, a taxi was booked to take us to our venue, despite it being within the range of walking distance, albeit an awkward one.

Once picked up, our driver for the evening – knowing our destination - was all too prepared to whip up our expectation and appetite on the way there.

“Never lower than an 8 out of 10” was his affirmative recommendation, “you’ll love it, never had a bad meal there” he continued.

Given the reviews we had divulged previously, we did not doubt him in the slightest and were all the more excited for what was in store, positively flinging the door open on our arrival.

Now afforded a first look inside The Persian Cottage, our eyes were opened to the strange reverse Tardis style sensation that is this restaurant.

From the outside, this is an expansive, roomy looking building, but on the inside, the tables and bar only go so far as two-deep, with the overpowering wood décor making it feel like a slim but elongated ski lodge.

The lack of a sauna, alongside the variety of Middle East styled decorations affixed to the walls restored our minds that we were in the right place and initial preconceptions were that the setting, complete with garish, fish laden, plastic tablecloths and bargain basement cutlery was what one would describe as quaint.

And who cares about the setting if the food is to die for, right?

The expansive looking exterior of The Persian Cottage gives way for a much condensed dinning space once inside
The expansive looking exterior of The Persian Cottage gives way for a much condensed dinning space once inside

That was certainly what we continued to hope was the case, as we selected from our laminated menu’s, with my dining companion choosing the Kebab Koubideh – two skewers of minced lamb, served with rice, a dish that had been recommend by our chauffeur for the evening - whilst I opted for the “slow cooked lamb shank in a savoury aromatic sauce”, also served with rice.

With a feature of the Persian Cottage being that they serve no alcohol, a further decision was needed to be made in terms of what we were to drink.

Was there to be a quick dash to a neighbouring off-licence for a bottle of plonk, or would we stay soft for the time being?

For want of ease and one of the funky looking teapot setup I’d witnessed on others tables, we opted for the later.

This was all a bit disappointing

However, I was to instantly regret the decision of choosing a pot of Persian tea when it arrived along with our main courses, given the whole setup dominated our table, making it a nightmare to navigate around.

Worst still, it was quickly apparent I was a rank amateur at pouring tea, with the full to brim pot spewing out everywhere but into the miniature see-through cup – perhaps there was good reason for the table clothes to have a plastic covering.

But we had our food and this was to be the crowning delight of our night we thought – this was the main event, the thing we had be looking forward to and had been promised was going to be a sensation – so all that had gone before wasn’t to matter.

My host for the evening's Kebab Koubideh, at The Persian Cottage
My host for the evening's Kebab Koubideh

Sure it wasn’t much to look at.

The rice was piled high on both of our plates and looked too much for an individual person to eat, whilst the “savoury aromatic sauce” to my lamb shank had a very oily looking complexion to it.

And true, the plates seemed to lack balance, especially my companion’s Koubideh, with the distinct lack of sauce or anything wet to assist with the eating of the aforementioned rice and dry looking kebab meat a concern.

But we were determined to tuck in and enjoy our meals… only for us to get a few bites into ours - and as customary, sampling each-others - to look each other dead in the eyes and telepathically transmit a simple message to each other.

This was all a bit disappointing.

This realisation felt so frustrating too. We had come with such expectation, excited to try a new to us Middlesbrough restaurant that we could go on to rave about to others.

But instead, we had found the food to be dull, lacking any real sort of resounding flavour. And for that matter heat – a two-minute spin in the microwave would have done it no harm.

The 'slow cooked lamb shank' that arrived on my side of the table at The Persian Cottage
The 'slow cooked lamb shank' that arrived on my side of the table

Could dessert save the day?

Wanting to quickly dispel the memory of our main courses, we decided a dessert was in order (when is one not in order?) and both quickly plumped for the deliciously sounding pomegranate cheesecake.

Personally aware that this particular dessert has been a long standing favourite on the menu, so much so it has apparent gained legendary status, I’m again expecting big things and something that might save the day – because naturally ending on a high can sometimes change the overall complexion of a dining experience.

This also happened to be a rare occasion where I insisted on my own dessert.

Normally, I’m happy to share, both out of stinginess and consideration for my waste line, but on this occasion I definitely wanted a slice of cheesecake all to myself, especially as I wasn’t the one footing the bill this time!

But once again, we were to be left deeply disappointed with what we received.

The cheesecake looked attractive enough, with its bright red thin layer, contrasting nicely against the snow white cheesecake filling.

Apparently a long standing favourite on The Persian Cottage's menu, their pomegranate cheesecake
Apparently a long standing favourite on The Persian Cottage's menu, their pomegranate cheesecake 

But when it came to taste, there was no contrast at all, with the amount of cheesecake simply too great to enable any hint of the pomegranate flavour to come through.

One flavour that could be witnessed, was the sticky sweetness of a strawberry sauce that had been drizzled haphazardly over the plate, offering a sugar scale on the level of a melted jolly rancher.

With no real crunch offered by the biscuit base either, this was once again a course that offered no real excitement or evidence of culinary expertise, leaving us both baffled.

If we had witnessed what was a typical experience, how had The Persian Cottage seemingly become so well loved and respected in the local area?

This will remain a mystery to us, at least until the time we make a return visit – but based on this initial experience, sadly, we’re unlikely to be rushing back.

Our meal at The Persian Cottage of a Koobideh Kebab (£9), Lamb Shank (£12), Pomegrante Cheesecake (2x £4), a pot of Persian Tea (£5) and a Sprite (£2.20) came to a total of £36.20.

Menus can be found at or for bookings, call 01642 829 090

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