Sister, sister: the beautiful duo behind Zardosht Persianesque food brand

The gorgeous Zardosht sisters, Soli and Sanaz, were on my foodie radar for some 6 years now. First I marvelled at their Broadway market stall, adorned with rose petals, gorgeous platters and steaming stews of Persian delights and have been ‘stalking’ them on Instagram ever since.  Back in the day when I was till in my academic / film festival admin world, I toyed with the idea of working in food, and seeing a job advert on their stall I sighed ‘Oh, if only I had the courage to actually do what I really love’, but I did not back then.

But 4 years ago when the KinoVino journey started to take a more defined course, I finally had a reason to contact the two lovely women to suggest a kino-foodie collaboration. And this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship (if I may use the over quoted phrase from Casablanca). While our plan of a joint KinoVino took four years (!) to come to fruition, I’ve had the joy of finally realising my dream and working in Zardosht kitchen, expanding my culinary horizons. As well as learning so many new dishes, I got inspiration on how to brighten up familiar things with the use of right herbs and spices (and a few decent cuts and burns along the way).

Being a huge admirer of talented young women who are not just outstanding cooks but also know how to turn their passion and talent into a proper business, I could not pass the chance to ask Soli and Sanaz a few questions about their heritage, their love of food and how the idea of the Zardosht brand came about. 

What is your earliest memory of food 

Sanaz: My earliest memory of food is from the days when my Mum, my sister Soli and I used to travel from Dubai to Shiraz during the summer holidays to visit my grandmother. I loved the afternoon walks we had together to the food market. It’s been years since I have visited Iran but I still recall the smell of the vegetables, fruits, flowers, spices and Persian pastries. We would always gather together in my Nan’s garden with aunts and cousins and it was the best! I miss those days!

Soli: Getting sick at the dinner table because I’d had a whole large uncooked green pepper- I was about 2 and I remember really LOVING them.

Who is your culinary hero 

Sanaz: My sister, Soli – and our Mum!

Soli: My mother and the only Persian food writer I know from her generation called Roza Montazami- Her cookbook is a bible in almost every Persian household- Many of her original recipes contained wine which were edited in the later editions published post Iranian revolution. My sister Setareh sent me this book when I was 17 and I still refer to it all the time. I’m a bit tired of the celebrity chef culture but I do love Jamie Oliver – for me, he is above all that and has done such a great job of making cooking look both easy and accessible to everyone..When I first moved to the UK, I had a notebook ready so I could frantically write down his recipes every time he was on tv. I also adore Nigel Slaters writing.

What inspired you to start a food business 

Sanaz: My sister Soli Zardosht left the fashion industry in her mid 20’s and started a Persianesque food stall at Broadway Market and a residency at Cafe Oto. I used to travel to London from Bristol to help with cooking. I always loved and enjoyed cooking from a very early age, so would always have friends over and cook for them. Once I graduated in Business Management, I decided to move to London and cook with my sister. I love our moments together in the kitchen!
Soli: My background in fashion and the lack of modern Persian cooking in London or anywhere.


What is your go-to-dish

Sanaz: I love making fish! Any type of fish, though I often make trout, olives, tomato and avocado!

Soli: A Persian stew made with chicken, sour grapes, tomatoes, aubergines and courgettes served with Persian saffron rice.


For you what is the most important thing about feeding people 

Sanaz: Spending time cooking and eating with friends is what I enjoy the most. I’m most happy when my private clients that I cook for on a weekly basis write to me about how much they like the flavours!

Soli: Making that meal the highlight of their day. When I have people over for dinner, I go out of my way to create just the right atmosphere to complement and enhance the dinner- the lighting, how the rooms smell, fresh flowers, the right platters, napkins…I take dinner parties very seriously.

What was your biggest kitchen disaster 

Sanaz: Ahaha, It’s hard to recall a disaster – although we did once spill all our just-made gazpacho on the floor, just before service! There are probably a few other episodes that the team members might tell you about – perhaps you should ask them!

Soli: On more than one occasion, at the end of a very long day preparing food for the market, I somehow managed to drop the plate containing the orange-blossom mascarpone filled dates. Preparing them each week is a real labour of love so there would often be a tear or two after the initial shock.

How do you judge the success of your dishes 

Sanaz: The compliments we receive from new customers and regulars on the flavours of our dishes. When our loyal/regular customers come back every week to Broadway Market to have our food it makes me very happy to see and hear their appreciation.

Soli: People always compliment the colours and the plating of our dishes but after this what I really like witnessing is how after the first mouthful, they often stop for a second in appreciation of the many layers of flavours. Whenever I’m at OTO I try to find the time to spy on our customers a little and gage their reaction to be sure we are still doing it right. We also get a lot of direct feedback from our customers, both at cafe OTO and at our stand on Broadway market which is really nice.

What are the key 3 ingredients that define Zardosht cooking style 

Sanaz: The spices, use of saffron and herbs.

Soli: Zardosht is about cooking Persian dishes with a modern and fresh approach. Our priority is to cook and serve food that is wholesome yet complex in terms of flavours, non pretentious , plentiful and a feast for the eyes.

What’s it like to work with your sister

Sanaz: I love it! We inspire each other. I love every single thing she has made. She’s the best cook! I miss her food – she moved to New York a few years ago and I miss dropping by her place, spending time and having dinner with her.

Soli: It’s really rewarding, we have the exact same palette and our shared childhood food experiences make communicating much easier than if I were to say explain the idea of a new dish to anyone else and vice versa.

What would you advise people who are aspiring to start a food business 

Sanaz: Go for it! It can be hard work, but take the risk and also be open to new ideas from your team members – and be open to change!

Soli: Make sure you LOVE cooking.

Book your tickets for a much-awaited KinoVino collaboration on 16th May!

Follow Soli and Sanaz on Instagram & explore their website

Kaukasis by Olia Hercules. A book review

As soon as I opened Olia Hercules’ new book, Kaukasis, I was transported into a unique world of evocative memories, intoxicating flavours and insightful reflections. I almost hesitate calling Kaukasis a cookbook as it is so much more than that. It is a glimpse into a beautiful culture of the Caucasus, it is a travelogue documenting Olia’s personal journey and a portrait of so many wonderful people she encountered over the years of traversing Georgia and Azerbaijan. Yet above all it is a window into Olia’s own universe that encompasses her passion for food and wine, her love of people and her intelligent interweaving of personal stories and wider (political) histories. 

Her writing is thoughtful and elegant but also very quirky and humorous. Without knowing anything about the author, the reader can clearly sense an intelligent, warm and convivial person behind the text. Her stories to each recipe are little essays in their own right and I have enjoyed reading them as much as musing over the flavours and textures Olia so vividly describes. Coming to the end of the book with a feeling that I could go on reading more, I was delighted to find an additional section at the back featuring Olia’s essays about wine culture in Georgia, about her journey across the region as a child as well as the story behind the book’s title. This beautiful section, printed on black and white recycled paper, elevates the book even further from the ordinary recipe book, attesting to Olia’s special talent as a writer. 

Of course, Kaukasis would not have been the unique creature that it is, were Olia’s gift as a chef less impressive than that as a writer. She brilliantly summarises the essence of her approach to collecting and creating recipes in the introduction, drawing a poetic parallel to the stunning imagery on the cover of the book: it is a vibrant mosaic of seemingly random parts which come together to create distinct shapes and forms recognisable to all. And this is indeed true. Olia demonstrates profound knowledge of Caucasian food culture (a result of years of research and travels) and manages to inject her unique vision into classic recipes, creating perfectly balanced dishes that are at once contemporary and accessible, as well as unique and imbued with a sense of tradition. Olia guides her reader through various ingredients and explains how these could be replaced and adapted, which to me was a particularly attractive feature. It demonstrates Olia’s healthy approach to cooking – take your ingredients seriously but also give yourself creative license to experiment and explore. 

The range of recipes presented in Kaukasis makes this book ideal for home cooks and professionals alike. There is a great scope in terms of complexity and the skills level required to execute the dishes – from assembling a deliciously simple salad to delightfully time consuming and intricate dough work. But what’s most important to me, these recipes and Olia’s approach to food made me want to rush into my kitchen and start cooking. No matter what, no matter which ingredients, but just to cook so as to reproduce that intoxicating creative energy that Kaukasis so powerful emits. This is a beautiful feature that Olia carries over from her debut book, Mamushka, which inspired so many wonderful cooking and eating sessions in my kitchen. 

As well as epistolary and culinary creation, Kaukasis is also an aesthetic experience. A whole new review can be written just on the photography by Elena Heatherwick, while the lay out and the font exist in perfect harmony and complement the stunning imagery. In this day and age of very specific trends in food styling and photography, Olia’s and Elena’s work pleasantly surprises with its refreshing and original feel. The fact that all photographs were shot on film adds that beautiful nostalgic quality which in turn echoes Olia’s writing and enhances the overall slightly elegiac energy of the book. Authentic simple objects and settings add an important documentary feature while Olia’s elegant food styling and Elena’s unique colour scheme and lighting leave no doubt that these photographs are a work of art. I love the fact that many images in the book are not of the food and so paint a complete portrait of Olia’s world and vision of the Caucasus, and this is exactly what this book is about. Stunning portraits of the author, breathtaking landscapes and quirky fly on the wall observations of the daily rituals of the local folk – I know I will flip through this book time and time again to admire these alone. 

Coming back to Olia’s insightful remark about the cover of the book, I feel that it’s not only her approach to cooking but the entire essence of the book that can be compared to the intricate mosaic: so many elements come into play, they are unique creations in their own right that can be admired and analysed separately, but then they come together to form a stunning portrait, a larger picture of a beautiful world. And just like the mosaic itself the longer you look at it the more of the new elements come to the fore, surprising you and promising an endless journey of discovery.




Good-bye, 2016!

2016 has proven to be a very complex year; we lost some of the greatest cultural figures and witnessed the unpredictability of international politics. Yet at the same time it has been an extremely fruitful and productive year for KinoVino. So many people say they can’t wait to see this year out, but I am extremely grateful to 2016 for all the wonders it has brought. This year KinoVino saw some of the most memorable gatherings; it was featured in British Vogue, became part of AirBnB’s new project – City Host – and has served as an incredible platform for my creative and professional growth. It has also laid a foundation for some formidable projects that will take place in 2017 and I can’t wait to share those experiences with you all. The line up for KinoVino supper club is nothing short of spectacular – we start the new calendar with a Beirut-themed night featuring chef Bethany Kehdy, make sure not to miss a Valentine’s date with chef Romy Gill, MBE, and enjoy the night of Bollywood romance and outstanding Indian food, you can also look forward to exploring East London on a plate as I team up with Rosie Birkett for an East End-themed KinoVino in March, and we will travel the spice route to Iran with Yasmin Khan in April. There are plenty more collaborations and exciting projects, including a special KinoVino-Konstam popup with chef Oliver Rowe and a partnership with Kinoteka Polish Film Festival.

It has been a true privilege to work with so many talented chefs and to have the support of our guests, for which I am truly grateful. I wish you all a very happy Christmas and all the best for 2017!

Best of 2016!

KinoVino Christmas: Babette’s Feast with Oliver Rowe
A fairytale KinoVino that captured the spirit of Babette’s Feast! We shared a truly wonderful night filled with some very special energy. It was really lovely meeting so many people passionate about film and food, and to see them have so much fun. The food was outstanding as always thanks to chef Oliver Rowe. This event marked a year of our KinoVino partnership, and what a fruitful collaboration it continues to be! The night was captured beautifully by Rosalind West.
Seven Sisters Feast at Yurt Lush Bristol
This event is a strong contender for my personal number 1 of 2016! It was a real honour to take part in a charity dinner to support Action Against Hunger and help raise money for the important work that they do. The event was organised by the formidable Romy Gill and I can’t thank her enough for making me part of it. It has been my greatest challenge as a cook and also the one that brought a great sense of accomplishment. I was thrilled to cook together with such talented women, like Romy, Olia Hercules, Rosie Birckett, Elly Curshen, Chetna Macan to name a few. And if this is not enough to make my head spin, the event was recorded for BBC Radio 4 Food programme and we got to talk to Sheila Dillon. Listen to the story here

KinoVino Mirror with Olia Hercules
It would not be an exaggeration to say that a screening of Tarkovsky’s Mirror followed by Olia Hercules’ feast was one of the most magical experiences of my life! Mirror is a film that has so many meanings to me. It was the subject of my MA thesis and the one that inspired by PhD research. It’s significance and meaning continues to evolve with me and it was truly special to screen this film as part of the KinoVino supper club. Not to mention that the event was featured as part of Curzon’s Tarkovsky retrospective and we had the privilege of screening a new remastered copy. Olia Hercules is a dear friend, who is a source of inspiration to me. Her support of KinoVino is invaluable and her talent as a chef turned our meal into a poetic experience. Who else could match the unique cinematic vision of Tarkovsky!

KinoVino Pickles
A cine-culinary trip to New York via the pickle shop! I love revisiting old movie classics – they really are the biggest treasure and have that unique power to transport you into an era that is long gone. Crossing Delancey is definitely one of such films! Not only does it capture New York of 1980s but also has some of the most wonderful references to the Ashkenazi Jewish food culture. A film whose protagonist falls in love with a pickle man from Delancy street? Well, that’s a perfect KinoVino movie right there. And who could take on the challenge of creating a meal inspired by pickles if not the one and only Kylee Newton, owner of Newton and Pott and author of The Modern Preserver. With the help of Oliver Rowe, she created the most imaginative and delicious feast featuring pickled produce.


KinoVino and AirBnB
I have been dreaming of launching a series of KinoVino-themed masterclasses and workshops which would allow our guests to go behind the scenes to enjoy a private cooking class with one of the guest chefs and learn how to curate and style a perfect dinner party. Et voila, AirBnB launches its new exciting project – City Host – and invites me to be part of it! Each month an intimate group of 6 guests gets the chance to attend a KinoVino gathering and indulge in the unique experience of going behind the scenes. A dream come true! It’s been a real joy to see strangers coming together and bonding over their love of and interest in food and film. Cooking and eating together is the best way of getting to know someone and I’ve been so lucky to meet so many wonderful people. The vino element of the experience of course helps to make these occasions all the more inspiring and fun! Learn more and book your own experience here
KinoVino and Lonely Planet
It’s been a really incredible experience to launch a new cookbook ‘From Source Spain’ by Lonely Planet. Instead of hosting a generic launch, we turned it into a Spanish-themed KinoVino and gave our guests a chance to take a cine-culinary journey across Spain. Transforming Calvert 22 gallery into a Spanish courtyard we hosted two magical nights of Spanish cinema, food and wine. The screening of Almodovar’s classic ‘Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown’ was followed by a feast of Spanish classics from the book, executed to perfection by Tom Hunt and Oliver Rowe. We heard stories from the book’s author Sally Davies of her culinary adventures in Spain and enjoyed some of the most incredible octopus dish that ever graced the plates at KinoVino, as well as some fantastic Riojas and of course the iconic gazpacho! Guests we treated to some gifts and hammers from Lonely Planet as well as live Spanish guitar performance.

KinoVino Georgia with Russian Revels

I have never been to Georgia but having grown up on the Soviet Union I was lucky enough to be exposed to the unique vibrant cuisine of that country. The sights and scents of the Georgian stalls at my hometown’s markets are still very prominent in my mind and I love conjuring them up when cooking a Georgian meal. By obsession with this country might explain why I keep coming back to it as a theme for KinoVino. Having had the most wonderful gathering dedicated to Sergei Paradjanov with Georgian and Armenian cuisine, I decided to focus solely on Georgia for the April edition of KinoVino that took place at the beautiful (and may I add – very trendy) gallery, Calvert 22. My partners in crime this time were a fabulous culinary duet, Karine Baldry and Katrina Kollegaeva, a.k.a Russian Revels. Having been to their themed dining nights, I knew those were my kindred spirits. My KinoVino instincts did not let me down, Russian Revels were a joy to work with: super well-organised, full of great food ideas and above all Fun! Having worked with them, made me all the more fascinated by the influences of our shared Soviet past on our culinary identity. So I decided to pose some profound foodie questions and here’s what Karina responded.

How much does your cultural heritage influence your cooking style?

KB: Georgian or rather Caucasian influences are always on the back of my mind when I cook. If you want me to pick one prominent influence is herbs. When I first moved to the UK one of the most difficult things for me to adjust to was lack of herbs in abundance. A few sprigs in supermarkets were not enough to satisfy my craving.
Do you associate your cooking with the idea of Soviet cuisine?

KB: Of course, can’t cross it out… We all have our memories living and cooking in the Soviet times! Some of the dishes were heavily influenced by that time and the availability of the food ingredients.

Where does your love of food and cooking originate from?

KB: It originated during my glorious summers in the Northern Caucasus – being more specific a small Spa town called Pyatogorsk. I watched my Grandma cooking and was learning through eating her culinary delights.
What do you cook when you long for an authentic homely meal?

KB: Although I love my Caucasian food very much when I want a nostalgic moment I chop up my Olivier salad!

How would you describe your cooking style?

KB: Inspirational, improvisation based on all my culinary experiences!

What are your top 3 ingredients?

KB: Tomatoes, beetroot, herbs

What’s your ideal dinner party menu?

KB: Tapas style +sharing platters+ casual+ slow eating + good banter!