Villa Mamas in a nutshell
A warm neighbourhood restaurant in South Kensington serving traditional Bahraini food in a cosy environment.
Villa Mamas restaurant review
Five years after opening her first restaurant in Bahrain, Roaya Saleh came to London this autumn to launch her first international restaurant in South Kensington. With a focus on home cooking and seasonal dishes, the food is inspired by Khaleej and Perisan cooking.
Dark red awning covers the outdoor seating which was full when we went on a Tuesday evening. Stepping inside you’ll soon forget you’re in West London. Wooden chairs and long benches with striped cushions sit around marble tables topped with speckled tea-light holders. Large rustic mirrors hang on the walls along with bright floral tapestries.
Small details also stand out: a big bowl of lemons as you walk in, floral-scented Diptyque candles in the bathroom, and mosaic tiles on the floor give it a homely feel.
To start, a bowl of lamb kofta came with a side of khubus, a round Arabic bread which looks like a poppadum and has the texture of a tortilla – warm, chewy and with a slight crunch when you first bite into it. The lamb was rich and tender served on top of creamy mashed potatoes, drizzled in a sweet and sour pomegranate molasses and topped with golden pine nuts.
Hearty portions are served for mains, so make sure to not order too many starters. The waiters recommended the mozat laham, braised lamb shank, Villa Mamas’ signature dish. Tender lamb is slowly cooked for hours with a mixture of seven different herbs (which are secret to Roaya), and served with vermicelli rice which is a combination of basmati rice, vermicelli pasta and more pine nuts.
Super fresh grilled halibut was tender and dressed with a spicy green sauce balanced with chilli and citrus that worked well with a salty herb pilaf.
We were warned that the pot of jalapeño salsa served on the side would be powerful, and although there was a strong heat that hit the back of throats, a small portion was perfect for livening up the rice.
Desserts didn’t impress as much as savoury dishes, but the mains are filling enough that you don’t need one. If you do fancy something, the bread and butter pudding made with croissants is light and fragrant with orange blossom and rose water.
The cocktail menu is short, with five drinks on offer that can all be made with or without alcohol. Tandra (a mix of grapefruit, thyme and prosecco) was sweet, sharp and slightly dry, a refreshing one to sip on throughout the meal.
The non-alcoholic Prunus was very sweet with slightly sour notes from the plums – a good one to have instead of dessert.
Menu must-order at Villa Mamas
An intriguingly named eggplant explosion came as thick slices of smoky aubergine that were soft, with just the right amount of bite, topped with creamy yogurt, sweet and sticky caramelised onions and crunchy walnuts. Use the khubus bread to mop up any yogurt that’s leftover.
Mid-end. Starters start at £6.95, mains at £12.50 and alcoholic cocktails start at £9.50.
Words | Ellie Edwards, villamamas.com