Momo: Forget your ex-couscous experiences
Nations and cultures the world over have made couscous their own. Whether it is the Egyptians with their plain take on the dish doubling as both savoury and sweet or the couscous kisir Turks make with greens and a tomato base or even the many jumbled couscous salads easily found in the local Tescos; we've all had couscous.
After visiting Momo you are guaranteed to forget all your ex-couscous experiences.
Many people consider couscous a Moroccan dish, which is true but not entirely. Couscous is a staple of Amazigh, or Berber, cuisine. The sweet earthy flavours of the North African indigenous peoples stretches across borders of The Maghreb.
Walking into Momo is like walking through a Moorish bazaar. The colours decorating the dining room are warm and vivid but not over stated. The dim lights create an atmosphere of calm intimacy perfect for a chic date. The gold and bronze geometric details of the arabesque furniture transports diners to a romanticised Muslim world orientalists painted and wrote about centuries ago.
Momo is a step away from too many fine dining Levantine and Iraqi halls scattered around Central London. It offers a refreshingly alternative luxury taste of the Arab world.
First opening its doors twenty years ago, Momo is the first British creation of Algerian – French nomadic restaurateur Mourad Mazouz who went on to replicate the experience closer to home, with Momo surrogates opening their doors in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
We were slightly frustrated with the slow service. After many animated waves to different waiters we finally found our own. He placed our menus on the ornate plates in front of us painted in Ottoman red and gold. He quickly walked away without helping us through the menu. Luckily for me my friend was cultured enough to explain to me what Harrira was.
|The aroma of the spices filled the air but did not overshadow the ingredients on the plate. The slow cooked meat was fork tender and melted away with the buttery couscous|
At first look the menu does not offer much variety. Momo focuses on a select number of classic dishes and they are cooked to perfection.
Starting with harrira my understanding of lentils was transformed. I grew up with a traditional lentil soups that crosses the culinary borders of the Middle East but my outlook has changed. The rich varied texture of Momo's harria combined with how light it actually feels made it the perfect started to our rich meal to come. Provided with the starter was complimentary fresh baked Arabic bread, light yet fluffy, the best companion to a bowl of harrira.
The mains arrived with a spectacle. Two waiters each carrying a large serving platter, came by with our couscous. The anticipation grew as each waiter took turns plating a portion. First was the fresh made couscous, I could tell that it was fresh just by looking at it. Even in the dimly light dining room it wasn't difficult to see that the couscous was good enough to eat plain.
Watching the second waiter scoop out the meat sauce quickly changed my mind about eating the couscous plain. The aroma of the spices filled the air but did not overshadow the ingredients on the plate. The slow cooked meat was fork tender and melted away with the buttery couscous.
The portion was generous but we knew we needed to leave some room for dessert and we definitely didn't forget the mint tea. I went for a timeless classic, the chocolate lava cake and my friend went for the pastilla.
We shared the desserts with one another because we're not monsters! The pastilla was flaky with a great balance of cinnamon spice and nutty toasted pecans. The lava cake was as typically textbook as it needs to be, no fuss needed.
Verdict: Momo is the place to go for great quality food and calm trendy atmosphere but it is not so great for your pocketbook.
The ambiance is perfect for a date or a high-profile business dinner so find that person you're dying to impress along with the will to cough up more than £140 and Momo is the place for you.
Alcohol served: Yes