Traditional and modern Middle Eastern cuisine in one of the most opulent settings around
Mamounia Lounge, Mayfair Review
Half cocktail bar, half restaurant, Mamounia Lounge in swanky Mayfair recently updated its traditional Moroccan and Lebanese menu with a contemporary and fusion feel. They invited me down to check it out.
Sixteen new modern Arabic dishes created by Chef Ramdane Djebarri have been added to the menu, including Truffle Hommus (£11) – a classic hommus with fresh truffles, wild mushrooms and a drizzle of truffle oil and the indulgent Lobster Tagine (£22) with asparagus, clams and samphire cooked in the traditional Moroccan style.
Mamounia Lounge’s reasonably priced cocktail list, where pretty much everything is under £10 is extensive and includes classics as well as house specials and a Cocktail du Jour which is bizarrely “dependent upon the weather, or your bartender’s mood”. The food menu is equally reasonable with mezze, salads and pastries from £6 and mains from £13.
The Mayfair branch of Mamounia Lounge recently re-opened after a year-long refurbishment and is set over two floors, with two bars and two dining areas, the venue features opulent decor, complete with handmade mosaicked floors and silver leaf ceilings and if you have a look at their Twitter or Instagram feeds, which are mainly made up of photos of Lambo’s and celebs you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s some kind of exclusive hangout for the super rich but they let us in, so they can’t be that strict!
We arrived and walked through the bustling underfloor heated terrace, which is used as an outdoor shisha lounge, serving an innovative menu of fresh fruit, alcoholic and traditional shishas. After being greeted by the friendly front of house staff, we were shown downstairs to our table and immediately offered a bottle of refreshingly fruity Petite Papillon Grenache Blanc 2013 (£21.00).
We were seated under the exposed, curved wall that runs down the length of one side of the room, which was very comfortable but very close to other diners (of which there weren’t many). The table was also far too small, making it pretty awkward to share dishes.
Antonia and I asked our excellent server, Marco to order on our behalf and started with the Fish Cigars – golden brown parcels of filo pastry with mixed seafood (£6.50) which were packed with cod, crab meat, prawns and vermicelli and came with a small pot of rich lobster bisque to be used as a dipping sauce, which was a beautiful combination. I could eat 100 of them.
The cigars were brought over with one of the Chef’s starters – Sardines marinated with chermoula and coated with kadaif served with green harissa and tomato concasse (£7.50). They had a good balance considering the mix of strong flavours on the plate but despite the nice presentation, this dish felt a bit out of place to me as it’s pretty much impossible to make a sardine taste high end or fine dining.
Sticking with the seafood theme, one of our main courses was the Pan Fried Sea Bass – served with seasonal vegetables and tomato & basil coulis (£20). Filleted and pan fried, the fish was well cooked and the various vegetables with the fresh tomato and basil coulis worked nicely together, but it’s a bit steep at £20.
One thing I did ask Marco to make sure was in our order was the Lobster Tagine I mentioned earlier. How do you pimp up a tagine? The same was you pimp anything up – chuck a lobster in it!
It’s a really nice dish and the lobster, asparagus, clams, samphire, lemon confit and black olives are served in a traditional tagine, swimming in more of that delicious lobster bisque. There was an unopened clam in ours though, which is always annoying, especially if the dish is £22.
Our mains were served with lovely, fluffy, rich Homemade Buttered Couscous (£2.50) and some delicate, crispy Fondant Potatoes (£3) on the side, which both worked well with our fish and lobster.
Although not new dishes at Mamounia Lounge, Marco suggested we try the Homemade Chocolate Fondant with vanilla ice cream and fresh fruits (£9.50) and the Crispy Chocolate served with a carpaccio of mango and pineapple (£8). We were happy to oblige.
The fondant was perfectly cooked with a rich, molten chocolate centre and crispy chocolate balls worked well with the fruit slices. Our desserts had no Arabic influence so upon reflection, we probably should have tried the Coconut and Mango Mahalabia garnished with pistachios (£6) but hey, there’s always next time.
The food, setting and service made for an enjoyable evening at Mamounia Lounge Mayfair but the dining room was less than half full and lacking atmosphere as a consequence. The trendy wine bar style lounge music didn’t help either…
Coming at the weekend is probably a better bet as there’s a belly dance show and live music from Middle Eastern to Spanish singers and musicians. Mind you, they will charge you a £5 cover for the privilege. Cheeky.
I’d be happy to come back and given the location and expensive refurb, it’s refreshing to see that aside from the Shisha menu everything else at Mamounia Lounge is priced reasonably.
|Pan Fried Sea Bass||£20.00|
Mamounia Lounge Mayfair
37 Curzon St,
London W1J 7TX