Just a stone's throw from Harrods in Knightsbridge is Mamounia Lounge, a restaurant serving traditional Moroccan and Lebanese cuisine and a bar with expert mixologists, plus a sister restaurant in the equally flashy, upscale district of Mayfair. We arrived on Friday night amidst a scene of Porsches roaring down Brompton Road and tired looking shoppers with Mulberry and Harvey Nichols shopping bags dangling from their arms. Having just finished a day's work (and a week chock full of socializing), all I really wanted to do was collapse in a puddle: Mamounia Lounge seemed just the place to do it.
I'll use any excuse to have Moroccan cuisine: I love the warming tagines with fluffy clouds of cous cous, the delectable spiced meats of mixed grill platters, and of course, hummus and warm pockets of pita bread. The timing for our visit was perfect; as co-host of June's travel link-up, I jealously read about other bloggers' visits to Marrakesh (a place that's still to be checked off my must-visit list), their visits to souks and stays in impossibly beautiful riads. Besides - as of late, my food reviews have all been a bit samey: pork belly, pork belly, pork belly.
Mamounia Lounge is made for socializing: from the fragrant wafts of shisha that welcome you at the entrance (the restaurant's outdoor terrace is perfect for enjoying shisha pre- or post-meal), to the main restaurant which leads to the bar and lounge area, it's opulent in decor and perfect for settling your tired self into after an exhausting day of shopping Knightsbridge. I totally get it.
As we sipped our summery cocktails and perused the menu, I started to get all boring again by suggesting we order tabouleh and hummus to start (I always order tabouleh and hummus) before John said, "Why don't we try something different and try the pastilla of chicken instead?"
I'm so glad that he did, because that little parcel of filo pastry baked with shredded saffron chicken, almonds, and a dusting of icing sugar, glazed with an orange reduction, was magical.
I haven't had an 'OMG!' moment in a restaurant for a while, but this pastilla of chicken definitely warranted that reaction. The crispy outer shell of the filo pastry gave way to a beautifully nutty flavor within - a bit like a mini Moroccan chicken pot pie. I'm a huge fan of sweet and savoury though, so it's no surprise that I liked this dish so much.
We also ordered a side of hummus and pita, just to line our stomachs, and I have to say - no matter what, hummus and pita from a restaurant will always taste 100 times better than the bland hummus and dry pita you buy in store (or even make at home). Somehow, this hummus was creamy smooth and the pita, little fluffy clouds of warm bread (not to mention - the presentation was pretty impressive). Heaven.
In between courses, and because I'm a total creepster, I snapped a photo of the opulent bathroom. Just, you know, for some interior design inspo ... and for your amusement.
I might have stood in there a little longer than necessary, mesmerized by the pattern the lights were casting on the walls. And those mirrors - oh, those heavy, ornate mirrors!
Back to the food ...
By the time I made it back to our table, our main courses had arrived and I was really looking forward to my lamb tagine - again, something you can make yourself at home but it never tastes as good as it should.
Case in point: the cous cous was light and perfectly cooked (mine's always either over or under cooked, yikes!) and the lamb, tender and gently falling apart in the tagine. I loved the delicate flavors of the broth that was served alongside my dish, which enhanced the hearty, warming taste of the tagine, rather than detracted. No evidence of tinned veg or tomatoes here - everything was fresh and cooked with precision and care.
John's mixed grill (why do guys ALWAYS order a mixed grill?) was equally delicious and a great contrast to my tagine: the spiced meats were smoky and perfectly grilled (the lamb medallions were my personal favorite!).
"The one thing I'd never do is take photos of my food. It's just soooo unnecessary," a girl at the opposite table said to her friends loudly enough for me to hear as I struggled with my SLR. I ignored the shade being clearly thrown my way and continued to snap away for this post ... the restaurant had been nice enough to seat us at a table in the corner so I could (unsuccessfully) surreptitiously take as many photos as I wanted to!
I made it through about half of my tagine before I gave up ... John fared no better. The portions are very generous and, looking back, though I absolutely loved the starters, we could have probably shared a main course between us!
Undeterred, we ordered a sharing plate of baklava and Moroccan mint tea (obvs!) anyway and enjoyed them as we waited for the rumored belly dancer to appear (yes, really).
The tea arrived in a beautiful, ornate Moroccan tea pot (which I'm now convinced I can't live without) - and it can be ordered to the sweetness of your liking, from unsweetened, to "medium", to sweet. We opted for "medium", which was still pretty sweet, but tasted fantastic along with the syrupy, honeyed goodness of the baklava.
After all the delicious, warm food, and the light scent of shisha drifting in through the windows my eyelids began to droop and all I wanted was my bed. Sadly, I didn't think I could wait for the belly dancer to make her grand entrance, so we thanked the lovely staff who looked after us so well, and headed home via Hyde Park, just as the sun was setting on the gorgeous rose gardens.
I was so impressed with the quality of cooking at Mamoumia Lounge and the variety of its menu. I'd love to return again - with a larger group in tow. Their large portions are perfect for sharing, and the menu is very reasonably priced ... which is probably helpful if you're arriving with an armful of bags from Harrods and Harvey Nichols! Well, one can dream ...
We were generously hosted by Mamounia Lounge Knightsbridge - thank you! All opinions are my own.