Mamounia Lounge Mayfair

MAMOUNIA LOUNGE MAYFAIR

You can’t go past Mamounia Lounge Mayfair and not gawp. The heated terrace churns out continuous streams of shisha smokers – the young, beautiful and so Mayfair – languidly drinking mint tea or playing backgammon. Get through the door, and you are into hushed lights, squishy sofas and, during weekends, pan-Arabic music and belly dancers. Lounge, it certainly is.

But behind the boisterous façade, the kitchen serves up Middle Eastern food that clearly shows both the care with ingredients and attention to detail with presentation. A kind of food that can and should stand on its own.

Mamounia in Curzon Street (the second of two branches, the other being in Knightsbridge) positions itself as a Middle Eastern dining experience with ‘European fusion dishes’. Our lovely Russian-speaking waitress told us that in the past the food was more traditional but recently there’s been a change towards more adventurous interpretations with some European, Mediterranean touches. Indeed, the menu is a mix of classic Moroccan and Lebanese dishes such as falafel, tagines, grilled meats, with a few surprising additions (perhaps to allure the jet-setting palates?) like hommus with truffles or lobster and crab meat tagine.

The restaurant consists of two levels, the smaller space with a bar behind the shisha terrace and a large lounge room downstairs where live music and dancing happen. We were seated on the ground floor in a booth, perhaps most suited for a lively birthday party (what, with a giant flat screen and meshed curtains), but the two of us were slightly lost in the massive sofa facing crowds and staff toing and froing to the loos and kitchen lifts.

Mamounia offers a wide and enticing selection of cocktails, many with champagne and many non alcoholic. We went for the Gold Digger, apparently the top selling signature cocktail. Served in two parts – a short glass of passion fruit liquor with gold leaves and champagne, and a martini glass with more passion fruit and vodka – it was a fun and refreshing start to the meal.

We then selected a spread of cold and hot mezzes. The more traditional Moutabel (£6.75), pureed smoked aubergine with tahini and lemon juice, was delightfully creamy and served with home-made pitta bread, an admirable touch.

Pastilla of Chicken (£7), an iconic Moroccan pie, historically made with pigeon meat, was a scrumptious combination of chicken cooked with saffron and almonds, wrapped in filo pastry and icing sugar. A combination of savoury and sweet which is so common to Northern Africa but could be a love it or hate it pairing for those not in the habit. We loved the crunchy pastry with moist filling, a meal in itself really.

Mamounia Lounge - London Food Blog - Pastilla

Mamounia Lounge – Pastilla

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Randa

Tucked around the corner from Kensington High Street is Randa, a fine Lebanese Restaurant which is part of the Maroush group of restaurants. Started in 1981 by Marouf Abouzaki who left war-torn Lebanon for London, The Maroush Group now includes 16 restaurants, ranging from the fast food operations of Beirut Express on Edgware Road to the more upmarket establishments such as Maroush on Vere Street and Randa. All the Maroush restaurants aim to serve authentic Lebanese food the traditional way, and at Randa, the menu offers a standard staple of Lebanese goodies. The selection includes a variety of much loved hot and cold mezzes such as hommos as well as an assortment of baked goods and pastries. There is also a fine selection of main courses including seafood and meat grills.

We began our meal with a selection of mezze including chickpea hommos (£5.50) and moutabal baba ghanouj (£5.75), a grilled aubergine purée mixed with tahine. Both of these were delightfully good. The hommos was thick, creamy and tasty, but the baba ghanouj proved to be my favourite with its rich, decadent and slighted charred flavour.

Randa - London Food Blog - Cold mezze

Randa – Cold mezze

Charcoal-grilled marinated chicken wings served with garlic sauce (£6) proved to be a winner. The wings were really nicely cooked and succulent, and they paired wonderfully with the strong garlic-y flavour of the wonderfully thick sauce. These chicken wings with garlic sauce are a personal favourite of mine, and on occasion I will pop into Beirut Express on Edgware Road just to order the wings.

Other hot mezzes included kibbeh (£6), deep-fried lamb meatballs mixed with cracked wheat and onions, and falafel (£5.50), deep-fried bean and herb croquettes served with tahine. Both of these were freshly prepared with crunchy coatings and tasty fillings. Grilled halloumi cheese (£6.50) was truly yummy with a robust earthy flavour.

Randa - London Food Blog - Hot mezzes

Randa – Hot mezzes

Les successful items included the Maroush salad (£5.75) and lentil soup. The salad of lettuce, tomato, cucumber, parsley, mint, onion, radish and with a lemon and olive oil dressing was also wonderfully fresh. But it was over dressed with too much lemon juice and very acidic on the palate. A lentil soup (£5) was also a little bland.

For our main we shared a plate of grilled king prawns (£18) which was a dream to eat. Four jumbo-sized prawns sat on our plate and were firm in texture and very nicely cooked. The combination of texture and good cooking yielded something that was really flavoursome.

Randa - London Food Blog - Jumbo prawns

Randa – Jumbo prawns

For dessert we tried a selection of baklawa which contained a variety of fillings. The pastry was delicate and the syrupy sweetness of the baklawa was not did overpower the flakiness of the pastry and the tasty fillings. All of these were delicious.

Randa - London Food Blog - Baklawa

Randa – Baklawa

The food at Randa was really enjoyable. The mezzes sang of freshness and authenticity, the prawns were delicious and the baklawa was good too. I would have liked better balance in the salad dressing and greater flavour in the lentil soup, but otherwise it’s a big tick for Randa on the food front. The service was warm and friendly too.

Summary Information:
Likes:

1) The food was generally well executed with the moutabal baba ghanouj being my favourite.
2) The jumbo prawns

Dislikes:
1) The salad and the lentil soup were the weakest dishes that we tried.

Food rating: 3.5/5
Service rating: 3.5/5

Prices: About £20 to £40 a head.

Website: https://www.randa-restaurant.com/

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Il Teatro and Al Mourjan, Doha, Qatar

On top of my meals at Opal by Gordon Ramsay at The St Regis Hotel and Blue at the Grand Heritage Hotel, I also managed to squeeze in some Italian and some Lebanese food whilst in Doha – all in the space of some 52 hours. Yes it was an extraordinary amount of eating, but I assure you that I did try and work this off with walks along the Corniche and around Doha’s main market, Souq Waqif!!

IL TEATRO

My Italian experience was at Il Teatro Restaurant which is part of the 5-Star Four Seasons Hotel. We went for Sunday lunch which proved to be a very quiet experience as Sunday is the start of the working week in Doha. Il Teatro serves upscale contemporary Italian food in a classically decorated dining room that can only be described as sumptuous. The restaurant backs onto the pristine gardens of the hotel and there is also some outdoor seating.

For lunch, the prices are based on the number of dishes and type of courses you order from the a la carte menu and are as follows:

Starter and dessert – QAR119 (about £22)
Main and dessert – QAR139 (about £25)
Starter and main – QAR159 (about £29)
Starter, main and dessert – QAR199 (about £36)
Starter, soup, main and dessert – QAR239 (£43)

From the starters, the baby octopus in a panzanella salad with focaccia croutons, fennel, tomato and onion was tender and tasty. The leaves were fresh and nicely dressed but were quite cold from having come straight from the fridge. The croutons detracted from this salad as they had not been freshly prepared and were unfortunately stale.

Panzanella salad

Panzanella salad

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