Multi-coloured light shines through the stained-glass windows of the ceiling in triangles, and everywhere there are glass lamps, carved wooden symbols, and ornate mirrors. In the middle of all this opulence there is a feast of tiered pastries and sweets crowned with luscious fruits, layered gold henna-d tea glasses, as well as Persian rugs, bronze statues and intricate silver vessels…even the answering machine has a Moroccan accent.
It’s like stepping into a restaurant off the Jemma el-Fnaa - almost. But then there are a few things that sending you hurtling back to the western world: the giant green chair outside belongs more to a car boot sale than this North African sanctuary, the bathrooms (including hand dryer) have been sprayed with rust-coloured sparkles, and the music projected into this emporium is more of a late night Kiss-FM mash up than Berber folk.
We were seated around a marble table next to the gold focal display dripping with glucose-laden delights, convenient for us to salivate over (figuratively only, of course) throughout the meal.
But as one of my dining companions noted, we had ended up being seated at the only wobbly table in the room -dangerous, if you’re as clumsy as I am.
The restaurant was empty for the first half hour, meaning that service was good – efficient but not intrusive, and with waiters at our exclusive beck and call. This was not a sign of any absence of quality, but rather people’s lack of awareness that Momo does brunch. The popularity of brunch in London has soared over the last few years but there is only a handful of places that stray from the omelette/bacon/pancake norm.
On previous trips to Morocco I’ve eaten so much at breakfast that I’ve managed to continue the whole day, camel-like, without any other meals. It’s good to be able to continue this tradition in London, especially considering the dearth of decent Moroccan restaurants here.
We ordered tea to start – Moroccan mint for me. The metre- high, admirable yet worrying, yellow stream brought back memories of Marrakech and the numerous carpet salesmen, antique vendors and herbalists who had poured out the perfumed nectar, laced with tooth-rotting sweetness, into patterned tea glasses on gold trays, in the hope of seducing us into buying their goods. The menu is extensive, with innumerable pastries, sweets and traditional Moroccan tagines. The absence from the menu of traditionally cooked eggs was refreshing (of particular interest to me after I wasted £13.80 on a limp and bland two-egg omelette at Christopher’s in Covent Garden – I shan’t be darkening their doorstep again).
I ordered the Full Moroccan Breakfast (sans poached egg) which consisted of batata hara, merguez, turkey bacon, coco beans in charmoula sauce, garlic-cooked mushroom-filled roast tomato. The potatoes were soft, and had soaked up the piquant sauce, while the merguez were salty, spicy and juicy, the turkey bacon crisp, the mushrooms delightfully garlicky, and the beans flavourful and comforting. I’d order Moroccan breakfast over British, any day. Over all, the dish worked well, but it could have done with a touch more salt to draw more flavour out of the starches.
My dining companions were content with their orders, too: scrambled eggs on toast with cured beef, cumin and fine herbs,
and tchaktchouka: merguez, spiced peppers, tomatoes with a fried free range egg, the latter bubbling furiously for five minutes or so after arriving.
After all this, we rolled off our chairs to examine more closely the array of decadent offerings.
Much to my disappointment there were no baklava (or “balaclava” – rather embarrassingly, the malapropism slipped from my mouth). We plumped for the praline mousseline horn, admittedly more for its inelegance of name than for its advertised flavours.
This tactic, however, worked in our favour: the pastry was crisp, flaky and filled with a light, and not-overly sweet, praline cream.
The maghrebine pastries were also exotic in appearance, looking somewhat as though they were made of play dough, as my dining companion observed.
This is how we ranked them: in first place, the shiny brown- coffee- bean- on-steroids shaped delicacy; in second place, the almond paste ball nestled in a yellow flower-shaped pastry cup, and stabbed with a nut; in third, the lurid frilly sea-monster (whose green resembled rather disconcertingly that of the giant green chair outside the restaurant).
A few mint teas later we tore ourselves away from the Moroccan den. All in all, the experience had all the necessary qualities of a good brunch: interesting, good quality and decently-priced food, an ambience of decadence and luxury, and good service. Or maybe I was just seduced by the endless streams of sweet mint tea…
Suitable for: Smart dates, friends, family, vegetarians, brunch, lunch, dinner, cocktails, business lunches, afternoon tea, something different
Loos: 6/10 - I walked into the men's. For future reference this sign = women's: