Plateful Café’s refugee-run bistro nights

Plateful Cafe in London.
By Sam.


Very few festivals can say they have a history which stretches back over three millennia, but Nowruz, the Persian New Year, is one of them. The celebration happens every year on the spring equinox and symbolises the emergence of new life and the triumph of light over darkness. Hadis, one of the many talented Chefs who cook at Plateful Café, explained how the charity was helping her preserve this ancient tradition with her family despite leaving Iran two years ago. 

“Plateful has allowed me to make a better lifestyle for myself in the UK and it’s been great to show off my culture and my style of cooking to customers.”  

Located on Lewisham Road, Plateful Café is open to everyone in Southeast London looking to experience unique cultural traditions. Their mission is to empower refugees like Hadis by providing job opportunities and by highlighting their talents and value within the local community. For Hadis, who had worked as a Physiotherapist in Iran, Plateful also allowed her to acquire new skills and gain professional experience working in hospitality. 

“It’s been great because I’ve been able to get experience working in a professional kitchen and serving customers, and I’ve also learnt how to make coffee like a Barista.”

The café’s new bistro nights showcase the food, culture and music of members of staff like Hadis. But more than that, they are an opportunity for you to come and support one of London’s new community spaces while listening to live music and eating great food. 


At last week’s Nowruz event diners could gather around a traditional Haft-Sin table and try traditional dishes like Sabzi Polo Ba Mahi – a herby rice dish served with fried fish. Traditional Iranian music played on the Tar, a long-necked lute, greeted people as they walked in, and the seven symbols of Nowruz were laid out on each table. These symbols all begin with the letter S in Farsi and represent various virtues. For instance, Sabzeh (wheatgrass or lentil sprouts grown in a dish) represents rebirth, Seer (Garlic) represents health, and Serkeh (Vinegar) represents patience. The night ended with smooth Jazz and a Persian Love cake, which is a fragrant dessert drenched in a sweet citrus glaze.

Hadis was kind enough to share the recipe for her Sabzi Polo so you can try and make it at home. But if you want to try the real thing then head down to Plateful café for lunch on Thursdays (9:30 am-3 pm), Fridays (9:30 am -3 pm), and Saturdays (12 pm-5 pm). Or for a full evening of culture head along to the next Plateful Lates bistro night which will be held on the evening of the 18th of April.

Alternatively, follow Plateful on Instagram @platefulcafe, on Facebook, or find out more about how to volunteer on their website


Plateful’s Sabzi polo Ba Mahi recipe:

For the rice:

  • 400 grams basmati rice
  • 80 grams of chopped parsley
  • 80 grams of chopped coriander
  • 80 grams of chopped dill
  • Minced Garlic (four cloves)
  • ¼ cup of brewed Saffron 
  • Sunflower oil
  • Butter

For the fish:

  • White fish fillets (traditionally Caspian Kutum)
  • Lemon juice


First, we soak the rice for one to two hours with a little salt. Next strain out the water the rice has soaked in before cooking the rice in boiling water until it becomes slightly soft (al dente). Depending on your rice this takes between three and eight minutes. Drain any remaining water and let the rice stand for at least two minutes. We then pour rice along with the chopped herbs and a little oil into a new pot. Add a little oil and butter before closing the lid and leaving to simmer on low heat for five minutes. We now set a little of this rice aside for the garnish. Dribble the brewed saffron over the rice that is being used for garnish. Leave the remaining rice to steam in the pot with no heat under it for half an hour or until fragrant. The fish is simply fried in a pan for two to three minutes on each side depending on the size of the fillet. Season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

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