Sharing the traditional Persian recipes she once cooked with her mum has been a “dream come true” for one of Geelong’s newest restauranteurs, Somi Adh.
Growing up in Iran, Somi remembers that whenever she had playdates with cousins or friends, she would always pretend that she was running a restaurant and serving up delicious food.
“From the age of nine or ten I cooked with my mother, learning authentic Persian recipes that had been handed down for generations,” Somi says.
Somi worked as a chef for many years, both in Iran and Australia, but it wasn’t until this year that Somi, together with husband Harry, opened their first restaurant.
House Persia on Pakington Street in Geelong West has already earned rave reviews.
“The most popular dish so far has been soltani kabab, a platter of skewered chicken and lamb. Soltani means king,” Somi explains.
Other offerings on the menu include fesenjan, a dish of chicken, pomegranate and walnuts, and baghali polo, with lamb, dill and broad beans. House Persia also offers some seriously tempting traditional pastries.
“Some customers have never tried Iranian food before, and they tell me, ‘I won’t order a lot in case I don’t like it’, but as soon as the food is on the table they smell it and love it and order more,” Somi says with a smile.
And although Somi and her mum Naier now live more than 12,000 kilometres apart, they speak every day. Sometimes Somi chats with her mum (hands free) as she is cooking in the kitchen.
“She was always encouraging of me, but she also said I’d be very busy,” Somi says.
Somi is also thankful for the support of 14-year-old daughter Ailin, who encouraged her to follow her dreams and open the restaurant, despite the stress and uncertainty created by the global pandemic.
During the first lockdown period, Somi and Harry used the time to lovingly decorate House Persia to reflect their rich culture. The second lockdown was tougher on the new business.
“We have got busier since opening up again and I am so happy to see customers around,” Somi says.
“I love to keep going with this. It’s a really hard job but I really enjoy it, especially when it’s busy.”
Now Somi’s thoughts are beginning to turn to Nowruz, the Persian new year, which falls in March.
It’s a time for traditions such as haft-sin, when Iranians welcome the new year by creating a display of objects in their home which symbolise good things. For example, there is always somaq, a crushed spice of berries, which represents the sunrise and the spice of life.
It will be a very special celebration for Somi and Harry, marking their first year of operation of House Persia. In the meantime, they are looking forward to sharing their warm hospitality and scrumptious food with Geelong.
Follow House Persia on Instagram @house.persia or drop by the restaurant at 112 Pakington Street, Geelong West. Please make a booking for sit-down dining.
Story and Photo: Emma Homes