Pigeon Pastilla and more at Momo, London:
I’m just a girl who CAN’T say no. At least when there’s the opportunity to visit one of the restaurants that has been on my bucket list for a year or so, to meet the chef, Philippe Agnello, and to see him prepare and cook one of his signature dishes. Sometimes though I really need a little more self control. I’m in the middle of trying to move house and every spare evening SHOULD be viewing property rather than indulging in cocktails and wonderful North African food.
I have no regrets. For a start, I ventured into the charming and idiosyncratic Momo and enjoyed a signature cocktail while I went round trying to take photos that reflected the house style.
It is visually stunning, with table settings and light fittings that create a sensuous and romantic space. You could be in Marrakesh…it’s certainly very easy to forget that you are in the centre of London.
And, then I got to meet Philippe Agnello and learn a little about the inspiration behind his cooking. He told us that, as a classically trained French chef, he was seduced by the flavours of North Africa when he visited and stayed with a friend on a protracted visit there.
In fact. he’s a much happier, smilier chef when he’s busy demonstrating how he cooks. For us, it was Pigeon Pastilla – plump little game birds that ended up providing a fragrant, spiced filling for pastry shells
We went on to enjoy a feast of food from Philippe and his team. Too many dishes to list…we started with some pretty bowls of spiced olives before moving on
to a seemingly endless selection of salads, dips and savoury pastries. This is the sort of food to enjoy with friends, pausing every so often over a particularly spectacular flavour explosion, like these tiny stuffed aubergine
In my case, I particularly enjoyed the lamb shank
And, the classic chicken tagine with preserved lemons
And, really did enjoy the Pastilla
After a seemingly endless stream of dishes we moved on to desserts.
Even I was flagging by this stage. I’m not sure I tasted either of these dishes.
And remember being particularly impressed to find a few pistachio macarons lurking on the tray.
What I believe makes the food at Momo so special is that Philippe has taken classic North African dishes and subtly improved them with the cooking techniques of modern French cuisine. So, for example, the pigeon for the pastilla is browned in olive oil before being gently stewed, there are reductions and sauces worthy of any kitchen in France. And, of course, the sweet tray has macaron – those quintessentially North African sweetmeats;)
This is somewhere for a special night out. I’m now trying hard to think what that special night out could be – and to find an excuse to return. My thanks to the management of Momo for the opportunity to meet with Philippe and to dine as their guest
25, Heddon street
London W1B 4BH