Momo in Mayfair: A lively mix of traditional Moroccan flavours and bold new creations
Tucked away on Heddon Street is a hub of lively restaurants and bars. Among them sits Momo – on first glance, a trendy and glamorous eatery serving Moroccan food. However, when we ventured inside, we were transported to an enchanting North African palace complete with wooden furniture featuring ornate carvings and plush silk-embroidered cushions. Trinkets, lamps and lanterns adorned every available surface, reminiscent of Moroccan souks, where similar goods line the walls from floor to ceiling. The level of detail was impressive, even down to the bathroom doors, which were over 150 years old and imported over from Morocco – or so I was told.
So though the surroundings were apt, I was intrigued to find out whether the food would be equally as authentic.
While we were left to pore over the menu, a portion of hummus topped with sultanas and pomegranates reached our table. This was part of the terrace mezze, usually served with shisha, which diners can enjoy in a designated outdoor area. The hummus was accompanied with pitta bread, couscous bread, focaccia made with mulukhiyah and a tasty tzatziki dip.
We also enjoyed a cocktail from the drinks menu, which offers a selection of classics and signatures. There was the Clover Club, made with gin, fresh lemon juice, raspberries and egg white. It was fruity and smooth, punching straight through with a tart sweetness. We also tried Momo’s Special, a mix of vodka, fresh mint, fresh lime juice and soda – thirst-quenching, refreshing and adopting many qualities from a classic mojito.
For the food we started with the octopus served with salt-baked beetroot and Guerrouane sauce. The octopus had been cut into pieces and lightly fried, giving the edges a lovely caramelised bite. The beetroot and sauce were rich, earthy and full-bodied but by no means took away from the simplicity of the octopus.
We also sampled the roasted quail pastilla with blackcurrant bigarade sauce, topped with a slab of nougatine. This was an interesting blend of sugary, salty, nutty flavours – an exquisite dish for those that don’t mind blurring the lines between sweet and savoury.
The main menu is split into traditional and modern plates, catering to more contemporary tastes. We opted for the classic Momo couscous served with a lamb cutlet, grilled spiced chicken thigh and Merguez sausages – a tasty mixed grill to go with the fluffy light couscous, vegetables and sauce. There were many different components to this offering which kept it varied and diverse.
We also had the tagine made with lamb shoulder, poached spiced pears, prunes and caramelised almonds. The lamb was beautifully slow-cooked and full of aromatic flavours, which gave way to a sticky-sweet finish. It was accompanied by a modern take on batata harra – potatoes sliced paper-thin which were then fried, before being mixed with generous amounts of chilli and garlic.
To wash down our mains, we thought it was only right to try some Moroccan wine and we were in for a pleasant surprise. We chose a glass of the light and fruity Les Trois Domaines Guerrouane Rouge, and the more complex and spicy Tandem: Syrah du Maroc.
For dessert, we went for the Chocolate Namelaka with beetroot and dark chocolate crumble. This was paired with a raspberry and Harissa sorbet – not for the faint-hearted, this spicy sorbet was pretty overpowering and while I really wanted to get on board with it, I just couldn’t.
We also had the strawberry mille-feuille with condensed milk and caramelised filo pastry. Light, subtle and dainty, it was a perfect way to end the meal.
Throughout the evening, the staff treated us like old friends and shared an impressive amount of knowledge about every single plate, speaking about each with genuine passion. As early evening turned into night, the restaurant had much more of a lounge feel and we were even witness to a couple of birthday celebrations which involved raucous singing and dancing from the team.
As for the food, the menu allows you to play it safe as you can’t go far wrong with their delicious couscous dishes and tagines, however, there’s also room to indulge a more adventurous side with some of their bolder creations. Even after we’d finished eating, the restaurant was a fun place to be and we took some time to enjoy our surroundings before calling it a night. So, if you do fancy making an evening out of it, head down to Momo where the atmosphere is just as lively as the food.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Alex Julie Woods
Photos: Francesco Taglini
To book a table at Momo, 23-25 Heddon Street Mayfair London W1B 4BH , call 020 7434 4040 or visit their website here.