Published on July 27th, 2015 | by Ben Southwood0
Summary: Mommi rides on the quality of its ingredients and the solidity of its cooking
Clapham North—or whatever it is I’m supposed to call the area around Clapham High Street overground and Clapham North tube station—is not well-stocked with nice restaurants.
The street is absolutely packed with shops, bars and restaurants. You have adequate chains like Nandos, can get decent BBQ from Bodean’s, and there are plenty dime-a-dozen awful-looking Brazilian steakhouses, but to this point I’ve heard of only one properly good restaurant there. That place is The Manor, which is the sister restaurant of The Dairy (Clapham Common) and the brand new Paradise Garage (Bethnal Green), and it is a perfect, lovely place.
But Mommi, just a stone’s throw from those two stations, stakes a decent claim to being a second. It isn’t nearly on the level of The Manor, but equally you could get away with spending a lot less. They recommend about three of their small dishes per person (we had four each, but would have been happy without the extra one) and that will set you back about £20 to £25 each—The Manor is more like £45.
If I had to criticise something about Mommi it would be the bizarre name. Is there any way of saying it without sounding like you’re saying ‘mommy’ in a childish American accent? Perhaps there’s some interesting reason or justification for it but did the owners really sound that name out much before they pumped for it? As a more substantive justification I’m not the hugest fan of the cocktails, which try to do too much. I asked for a cocktail that wasn’t sweet, was offered a rather sweet Pisco Sour. It had a nice egg white foam/froth but the overall flavour was cloying and dull. My dining companion drank the Mommi Fizz which had a bland watermelon-tinged sweetness rather than any hint of gin or fizz.
A final very minor complaint would be the service, which was perfectly efficient, rapid and attentive, but follows the popular school of constantly asking how my food is. If my food is good I will say, and if my food is bad I don’t want to have my meal worsened further by the embarrassment and awkwardness of having to say so. I know it’s not the fault of the waiting staff. It’s unnecessary and unhelpful. Luckily, my food was rather good.
We ate four raw dishes: it seems like the difference between ceviche (from the Latin side of the fusion), tartare, and sashimi (from the Japanese side) is that ceviche comes in smaller bits and mixed up with veg and sauce—sashimi comes with wakame and wasabi on the side. The yellowtail sashimi was extremely tender and fresh, indeed it verged on being hard to handle from falling apart at the slightest tug. The sea bass tartare was less good—slightly flavourless and more rubbery and coherent. But perhaps that’s a feature of the fish.
The lobster and tuna ceviche (I think it’s quite a flair move having these together for a reasonable price) was lightly zingy but still benefited from a soy sauce dip. The tuna tataki was the best of the lot: topped with crispy deep-fried garlic and cherry tomato halves and ever so lightly seared on the outside, leaving the inside completely raw. The cooked dishes were also good. The smoked beef fillet wasn’t smoky, but it was buttery soft and medium rare. I’m not sure the chopped yuzu onion on top really benefited it much but you have to put yuzu on a Japanese menu. It was a bit of a surprise to find potato underneath but I’d say it was a pleasant surprise.
Scallop wrapped in pancetta was pretty down the line. A bit softer and more jelly-like than I prefer my scallops but I suspect mine might be a personal taste. The pea underneath was more or less unedited, just chopped up peas, which I think was to its benefit.
The halved prawns were not good at all, with a sauce that reminded me of the remains of cheap Chinese. But they were redeemed by excellent braised short-rib teriyaki, which had been taken off the bone and slow-cooked until it fell apart in shreds. It was sweet, but not too sweet, and the quinoa underneath (another Latin influence) served to mop up the drippings. Finally we ate some ‘quinoa bread’, which I’m certain was 90% wheat flour, albeit with a few random chewy soya beans thrown in for good measure, and a generous pot of ‘aji panca’ (i.e. chilli) jam.
Japanese-Latin is the sort of buzzwordy gimmick that makes some people instantly sceptical. Often you could count me among those people. But a restaurant like Mommi rides on the quality of its ingredients and the solidity of its cooking (and thankfully for them, not the sound of its name), and I think Mommi has those down pat. The fish was fresh, the beef was cooked properly, and the searing was just searing. Add to that nicely-designed booth tables, a good location and cunning lighting (it felt fashionably dim but the table was well-lit) and I think Mommi might just be a success.
Mommi, 44-48 Clapham High St, SW4 7URShare This Post