Finding pretty much any cuisine in London is easy. Finding a restaurant that feels like it occupies the same kind of space as it would in its respective country is something far more difficult. I wasn’t too experienced in Moroccan dining before I went to Momo, but ducking off the heaving Regent Street into the tiny adjacent side street, I immediately felt like I could be in a similar little turnoff in Marrakech. Encased in shrubbery and with enticing aromas wafting out the doors, this intimately lit little hideaway immediately drew us in.
Inside, the low lighting and lavish Moroccan furnishings continued the feeling of being transported away from the normal hectic nature of London’s main shopping streets. Arriving at our table, the seats were set noticeably lower to the floor than we were expecting, which gave us a real feeling of informality – despite being in beautiful surroundings, we didn’t feel like we were on display, and instead were far more closed in as an individual table. Indeed, this really is a perfect venue for an intimate evening, or catching up with people that you perhaps haven’t seen in a long time.
On the tables around us, we couldn’t help but notice the colourful cocktails that were being set down, and very quickly consumed! We took that as a good sign, and ordered a couple ourselves – the first being a Momo Special (a wonderfully refreshing take on a Mojito), and a Negroni.
All the while we were enjoying these, other diners’ courses were arriving, and again we were getting envious! Jumping into the menu, we were recommended a great variety of sharing starters that encompassed the specialities and vibrant flavours that Moroccan cuisine is famed for. We began with crispy gambas, served with avocado purée and labneh cheese. Wrapped in light K’Taiffe, this gave the prawns an irresistible crunch, while the avocado added to the cheese an ever so subtle citrusy zing.
The wood pigeon pastille had immediately caught our eye, so when it was brought to the table we couldn’t wait to dive in. Combining the sweetness of the cinnamon with the rich, peppery meat of the pigeon made these pastilles too good to put down, despite them being hot from the kitchen! The orange marmalade accompaniment paired perfectly with the Negroni cocktail that we still had – an unintentional bonus!
Of course, we couldn’t come to a Moroccan restaurant without sampling the houmous. Boasting a deep, smoky flavour but with creamy undertones, we were quickly scooping it up with the Moroccan bread that had clearly just been baked.
I have to say, I was slightly nervous about the next dish which was recommended to us. Pretty much any meat dish in a restaurant gets my attention, and usually my order, but I’d never chosen chicken livers before. Our waitress told us that lots of customers feel the same, but she guaranteed that we wouldn’t be disappointed. Her recommendations had all been home runs so far, so we were hardly going to say no! How right she was – with an almost melt-in-the-mouth quality, the chicken livers were beyond tender, and had a richness that the pomegranate melasse cut through with a sweet, tangy twist.
This bold use of contrasting (but never clashing) flavours was continued in our next dish – mackerel filet with green pepper salad and roasted tomatoes. The way that the fish was cooked with a slightly crispy quality to the skin, and a deep saltiness which made the juiciness of the tomatoes even more appealing was absolutely unbeatable.
For a simpler dish, we went for cheese briouat, which were fantastically light, and were perfect for dipping into the houmous that we already had at the table. We had also ordered a Moroccan salad, which we started combining with the houmous, but quickly moved on to mixing with our other dishes as well, enjoying the colour and undeniable crunch it brought!
After such a range of sharing dishes, we were more than a little worried that we wouldn’t have enougn room for a main course. Momo is famed across London for its tagines, so we hadn’t hesitated at all to place an order right away. As soon as they arrived, the wondrous aromas wafting up from the bowls was enough to remind our stomachs to make room! The venison tagine was as rich and enticing as any game dish deserves, cooked in a beautiful red wine jus which hid crispy polenta, kale, and glazed Chantenay carrots. The vegetable tagine relied was an enticing mixture of textures, with the subtle spices used never becoming overpowering. We had deliberately saved some of the Moroccan bread from earlier to soak up both of these delicious sauces – essential!
Despite being almost unable to move after all of this food, the desserts were calling us. First, a decadent Valrhona chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream, that avoided the trap of so many other chocolate desserts around London in that I wasn’t overly sweet or heavy. A high cocoa content kept it smooth, with a subtle bitterness at the end of every mouthful. Our second dessert was a milk pastilla – I’d never had a lighter, more delicate dessert than this.
A establishment like Momo doesn’t gather such a dedicated following just for its faultless menu, which we were lucky enough to sample a great deal of its exotic specialities. It’s much more than this – it’s the unmistakable sense of flair and craft that goes into every part of the restaurant. The lavish Moroccan furnishings, intimate ambience and passionate staff all combine to transport you far away from the London side streets. If you’re looking for a place that truly feels like an escape, Momo is not easily topped.
25 Heddon Street, London, W1B 4BH