I don’t know what happened last Friday… stars were aligned, and restaurant gods smiled on Ella and I as we walked into Brixton Village, for Mama Lan’s usual queue of patient, ravenous diners was no where to be seen…
People haven’t stopped recommending Mama Lan to me since I moved to Brixton – it had become a bit of a bother. We leapt at the chance to finally knock this one on the head - ‘Yes, yes I have been. Yes, yes it’s incredible’ – and boy, was everyone right!
We were amazingly fortunate with our timing, for no less than five minuets after being seated, the queue started to grow... Before raving about the food, let me say this - don’t let Mama Lan’s popularity put you off. Yes, you might have to wait, but, 1), the atmosphere is awesome, and it’s a great spot to soak up the village vibe, and, 2), the food is worth it.
The menu is small, being broken down into ‘noodles’, ‘dumplings’, and ‘street snacks’. It’s strait forward, user-friendly, and all is to share: perfect for dating. Flavour, flavour, flavour is the agenda here.
We opted for king prawn and Chinese water chestnut dumplings – so succulent, sweet, and flavoursome; beef and spring onion dumplings – where the meat was wonderfully tender, rich, stringy, and utterly moreish; and spicy chicken wings – literally, life-changing. These wings were hot, yes, yet with exceptional balance of flavour, avoiding that deeply unpleasant annihilating smack to the taste buds. Their crunchy exterior was such a fabulous texture; you can’t help but get stuck in and devour every crumb… A real ice-breaker if an early date! I cannot wait to return to Mama Lan for the wings alone.
The dumplings were all light and delicious, and served as a very generous portion - five or six per dish, I recall. Dipped into a mixture of chinking vinegar and light soy sauce they were a true delight. The ‘smacked cucumber’ was tangy and juicy, and the seaweed salad was refreshing and mild, a perfect compliment to the bold flavours on center stage.
All Mama Lan’s meat comes from Moen & Sons, Clapham’s top-notch butcher, so is free-range and ethically reared, and their veg is strait from the village. All of this feeds into the quality of the food, but also into the restaurant’s local, familial vibe.
Drinks here feel incidental, given that the food’s so damn tasty. Cocktails are okay, although, in my opinion, a distraction. A cold beer is perfect.
There’s a real hustle and bustle about the place, and thus seating is cramped, or, to the dating aficionado, intimate. There was some pretty loud live music going on outside Harry Otto & Sons the night we went, (my favourite fishmonger in the village!), which only added to the atmosphere and energy of eating at Mama Lan.
All in all, Mama Lan is some seriously prime dating turf: the food’s exceptional, the bill is modest, the atmosphere is buzzing, and there’re a million options for drinks afterwards if all’s going well…