Momo, the Berber eating place on Heddon street in Mayfair, is 22 this year, and has been overhauled and relaunched to mark the occasion. In 1997, this changed into the vicinity that, past doubt, set my eye on turning into a eating place critic, once the old protect started expiring from gout. I spent sixty five minutes there one night, returned while it was one of the very coolest locations to be seen – apart from the top bar at TFI.
Momo, because the hottest restaurant in London, changed into an excellent, galling instance of the way locations dealt with their well-known, in-crowd guests, rather than regular diners who weren’t in Donatella Versace’s retinue. It changed into actually a completely quite room – a kind of fake-Marrakesh, enchanted souk – and today it’s in large part the identical, just even better, entire with a golden, hand-painted dome centre level, artwork‑deco sofas, illuminated palm bushes and flattering, peach-hued lights.
Back then, the menu changed into thrust into our arms by means of a semi-belligerent server with a reminder that our desk, booked months in advance, could soon want vacating. Couscous became whisked away mid-mouthful by way of workforce who had one eye at the door in case Patsy Kensit’s hair stylist required emergency shisha recommendation. An try to visit the downstairs ladies’ room have become a security difficulty, incurring warnings that I have to no longer attempt to go off-piste and enter the cocktail. The bill was £forty six for 2 glasses of heat pinot grigio and two tagines. It says extra approximately me than Momo that I’ve simmered in this for 21 years.
A satisfying denouement could have been that I returned to check the brand new Momo one recent Saturday night to discover a roaring bin fire of wrongness. As a substitute, it became an surprising joy. The front of residence are now a smiling squadron who fuss over the complete consumers, which may also now not be A-list, but the West quit crowd of moneyed travelers, properly-heeled Essex birthday parties, fourth dates edging closer to commitment, “Instagram models” and people with exciting facial resculpturing. Under Mourad Mazouz (the man at the back of comic strip), Momo has in reality weathered the storms of being cool, then uncool, then absolutely beside the point, earlier than being shabby, stripped and rebooted.
It has truely got over itself. Yes, there may be chook couscous and lamb shoulder tagine and scotch pork tangia with inexperienced olive panisses (a type of chickpea fritter). The “traditional Momo couscous” comes with a small platter of lamb cutlet, spiced chook thigh and merguez, for £26. It arrived with top notch fanfare and a clattering of crockery, become as watery as I recalled, and, through and big, a chunk fashion over substance.
The dish that melted my heart and righted two a long time of harm, however, changed into harira, a velvety, highly spiced, dal-like Moroccan soup brimming with cinnamon, turmeric and ginger. It grew to become up with spoons of clarified lemon paste and a harissa so hot, it can blow your (new, tighter) face off. Quail pastilla changed into notable, too: a delicate, wealthy, candy Moroccan filo pie, as sugary as it became savoury, with nougatine portions and a effective, blackcurrant sauce. For vegetarians, there’s inexperienced asparagus tagine with spiced rhubarb or heritage beetroot couscous, and that i shall never forget about the frankly bizarre teff “pancake”. It become a bit like injera flatbread, but additionally a piece like chocolate swiss roll, albeit one blanketed in boiled brussels sprouts and chunks of jersey royal, and came with a jug of inexperienced harissa bouillon.
Momo continues to be noisy, blaring out the kind of dance tune that to older ears might also feel like being attacked by bees. However if you have been interesting friends, it would be a struggle for anyone to locate Momo “dull”. It’s a vibrant location, full of diners who don’t take themselves very significantly, posing for circle of relatives group pictures and making a song glad birthday. The food is excellent, too, and you can’t say fairer than that. Puddings are worth sticking around for. A plain-sounding riz au lait turned into probably the finest rice pudding I’ve had on this lifetime, served with confit grapefruit and coriander, which must be a culinary automobile crash, however isn’t. Be warned, though: the chocolate namelaka has a rich bed of diced beetroot and hot harissa lying beneath its cocoa crumble topping. Always order one pudding for the desk that divides opinion, because that way there’s a strong hazard you’ll get to consume double.
So I’ve determined graciously to forgive Momo. The terrible things. They scared me off for 20-ordinary years. They gained’t be as fortunate once more.