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Moroccan and Lebanese Dining in Style at Mamounia Lounge:
Mamounia Lounge Mayfair is just round the corner from Shepherd Market on Curzon Street itself. It’s the kind of place I’d be tempted to walk past unless I knew what was inside; a shame, because it’s really worth a visit. The restaurant has recently been refurbished and is now opulent, rich with mosaics, silver leaf ceilings and stunning chandeliers. Upstairs, there’s a relatively small and intimate dining area and bar, while the downstairs room provides ample space for groups and family parties. Both restaurants are lively though, with music and exotic lighting designed to recreate the buzz of the souk. There’s a shisha lounge just in front of the restaurant too, if that’s your thing, although it is VERY popular so you might need to wait for a table.
The last time I visited Mamounia was with a group and I find it quite hard to write a representative review in that kind of setting. Firstly, it’s almost impossible to take photos, secondly it’s far too easy to get diverted by conversation and finally I’m always aware that the kitchen will be stretched to the limits and what is served may well be constrained by the need to produce food for thirty or more hungry diners all at once. So, I was delighted to be invited back to try the a la carte menu.
We picked a whole range of dishes to share as starters, which ranged from sublime to excellent. We both particularly loved the Truffle Hommus served with fresh truffles, wild mushrooms, crispy chickpeas and warm pita bread. Somehow they’d managed to create an ultra smooth hommus that was deliciously fragrant with truffle oil and fresh truffles.
Cheese Briouat, filo pastry parcels filled with herb infused gooey halloumi, goats cheese and feta had my Greek Cypriot dining companion waxing lyrical about the food of her childhood. I just ate them…and probably did rather well at monopolising the plate.
My personal favourite of the starts was the Pastilla of Chicken. I learnt how to make a pigeon pastilla at Momo so I was keen to find out how this compared. If you’ve never tried one, please do make sure you make a mental note and order! You get a delicious round of filo pastry with a spicy, sweet and savoury filling of meat, almonds and cinnamon. Done well, as here, it’s an intensely fragrant morsel that escapes being in any way heavy by some kind of miracle of the kitchen. I think it might be because the meat is effectively steamed inside the filo parcel, so the end result is not in anyway greasy!
We also had a tabboulah, here made with quinoa rather than bulgar wheat and with watercress, cucumber and tomatoes. I’m a little unconvinced because the result lacked the bite of the bulgar wheat for me and because I enjoy the ‘cleansing’ effect of the more traditional mint and parsley mixture but it did result in a lighter dish altogether.
On to the main courses, in some effort to pick healthy dishes I chose the Farruj Meshwi – grilled boneless baby chicken that had been marinated with paprika, coriander lemon and olive oil. A lovely charcoal charred, very tender chicken dish it was, I think a good choice for anyone trying not to over indulge. Or, like me trying to make up for eating most of the briouat and pastilla!
My companion’s Meshoui was described as a traditional shoulder of lamb, slow roasted for eight hours, marinated in Morroccan spices and served with fresh dates, orange and apricots. She loved the meltingly tender meat but remarked that the spicing was very light.
Although there’s a great range of desserts, we were a little too full at this stage to order more than mint tea, coffee and a selection of delicious sweet briouat stuffed with almond, pistachio and mahalabia (a kind of middle eastern custard).
Mamounia Lounge would be a great venue for a small to medium sized group of friends or family. It’s lively and friendly without loosing any class – the sort of place you’d like your friends to take you for a birthday celebration; somewhere you can linger long into the night and relax over a shisha once you’ve finished eating. Competitively priced for the area, most of the starters are around £6-£8, though the truffle hommus is a little more at £11. Main courses are mostly in the £15-£20 price bracket.
37A Curzon Street,
London W1J 7TX