Address: Unit 18, Brixton Village Market SW9 8PR
We reviewed this restaurant early on in our blog and decided to revisit to ensure it was up to the same standard … in fact we visited several times just to be sure. One reason for returning was because Mama Lan has now opened more locations and we wanted to know if it was possible to maintain the high standards we found when it first opened. It is eponymously named after the chef’s mother and it serves Beijing street food. One difference is that the inside of Mama Lan has been remodelled to make the kitchen more accessible and still leave room for a few customers. Each table is for two and larger groups will have to shuffle the tables to make them more sociable.
This time we visited on a Sunday and early – we wanted a more leisurely brunch, so sat down about 12.30 with a choice of places to sit. Situated at the main cross roads in Brixton Village it is great for people watching as the Village fills up at 1.00 pm. The menu at Mama Lan is not taxing – a couple of soups which seem to contain everything and lots of it, dumplings (5 to a plate) and, as side dishes, chicken wings, vegetable balls and seaweed salad. We headed into the dumplings (pork and Chinese leaf and the vegetarian version – Woodear mushroom, spinach and vermicelli noodle) and we also chose a portion of spicy chicken wings. We thought we would need other choices for three people but it turned out none of us had a large appetite that day.
With a minimalistic decor and straightforward menu this place knows what it’s about and for a short Sunday lunch seemed ideal. We really liked the dumplings with the pickled carrot and cabbage accompaniment. Our favourite was the vegetarian ones as they had a more interesting texture. The pork, although tasty, was a bit dangerous as the sauce sprayed out as soon as you bit into it. The chicken wings arrived first and were well cooked, spicy without being overpowering and juicy. We mention this last word because as we ate we couldn’t prevent ourselves from comparing this restaurant with the one in Market Row – Happy Dumplings. The food was just not comparable – in Happy Dumpling the chicken wings were like sawdust and the dumplings were best forgotten.
We washed everything down with a pot of Monkey Paw green tea, a bottle of Tsing Tao beer and a China Sour mocktail (apricot and lime juice).
It cost a mere £16.50 for drinks and food and we left with satisfied – although we did pop along to Lab G for an ice cream to complete the meal. We will definitely be visiting both Lab G and Mama Lan again.
address: 30 Market Row Brixton, SW9 8LD
This is an unprepossessing restaurant in Market Row which competes with Prima Donna and Provincial on the opposite side of the alleyway. It goes in for small plastic tablecloth coated tables inside or outside the restaurant with plastic chairs (outside) or plastic stools (inside) and a variety of leftover silver decorations from the Chinese New Year or Xmas. It started off in the early days of the transformation of Brixton market as just a small stall offering takeaways, but it has grown over the years, taking over adjoining units. Between us we’ve eaten there a few times but have never felt it lived up to it’s promise – Brixton could do with a really good mainstream Chinese restaurant. But now it does look like a proper sit down restaurant and often seems to be crowded, so we decided we had to give it another go. In the event, we don’t think the other restaurants have much to worry about in terms of competition.
13 Electric Avenue
Tel: 020 7738 5898
This is the second in our reviews where we have set ourselves the task of buying all the ingredients (or at least the majority) for a meal from one local shop. We lay out the prices, what they have and hopefully promote buying from local shops in Brixton. This time the dish is Pad Thai and the place to go for all the ingredients is the Wing Tai supermarket in Electric Avenue. Pad Thai is one of those dishes where everyone has their favourite recipe – I’ve used the one on the BBC food website http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/padthai_67953 I’m not an expert but the end result is reasonably similar to the sort of thing I got at cheap local restaurants years ago when in Thailand.
Courtesan Dim Sum
69-73 Atlantic Road, SW9 8PU
0208 127 8677
This is a little gem, filling a place in Brixton for a classier Chinese restaurant. The unassuming entrance leads into a bar area filled with golden birdcages and low lights. The restaurant decor is not the eclectic throw it together kind – it is simple with matching tables and comfortable chairs and benches. Lighting is Chinese style but not on the bling side – no red lanterns. It is an area of calm – until the tables begin to be filled.
This is a Dim Sum restaurant with a Brixton flare. We have the usual steamed Dim Sum (prawn, chicken and roast pork) but there is the oddball of jerk chicken in rice wrapped in a palm leaf. This looked relatively unassuming when it arrived – just green on the outside and white on the inside. But it was really delicious – full of ginger with not a hint of chilli but a big dose that grew in warmth but didn’t overpower the delicate rice and the really well cooked chicken.
address:506 Brixton Rd, Brixton, SW9 7AW
telephone number 020 7326 4888
We had thought we would not have to review Speedy Noodle as we thought it didn’t qualify under our no chains rule – but it isn’t one. This Chinese style restaurant has been in Brixton long before it was transformed into a foodie destination. But it is a restaurant and although we considered changing the rules to exclude it we tonight (Saturday) decided to make another visit. This is a restaurant which is easy to book (there isn’t any). If you want to go out to the Ritzy and then you don’t have to saunter in the cold or hang about in a queues just go to Speedy Noodle and you can cut it very close and even see the trailers. It is also opens much later than most restaurants so you can have a starter and main before the film and dessert on the way home too.
It lives up to its name – we were in and out in 20 minutes. The longest time was spent in choosing from the long list of Chinese, Malaysian and Thai items. On another occasion we tried the Thai Green curry which is passable and cheap. This time it was Singapore Vermicelli and a Malaysian Chicken curry. The Singapore noodles looked good with appropriate ingredients but wasn’t as spicy as it could be – but it was a bargain. That was the best bit of our meal. The curry was ….well was.. It had few ingredients – chicken and onions – but tasted less like curry and more like chicken in gravy. Despite hunger half was left on the plate.
They have a license and sell beer and wine (by the glass and the bottle) but we washed all down with a pot of green tea. It was cheap – £10.20 for two.
There are nearly 100 items on the menu so we could go back and try more and I am tempted to discover what a fried ice ball is or test the spicy calamari . But I think those culinary delicacies can wait for another decade. If I want cheap and fast food we’ll go to Gyoza down Coldharbour Lane unless we are starving at midnight.
Address: Unit 18, Brixton Village Market SW9 8PR
As dumplings are fast becoming one of my favourite foods the news that a dumpling restaurant was to open in Brixton Arcade came with much excitement. With our first visit at prime time for lunch we were worried that due to it only opening a few days before we would be out of luck however we were surprised to see that we had a whole bench to ourselves free.
With minimalistic decor and straightforward menu this place knows what it’s about and doesn’t seem ashamed by it. With three different types of dumplings (Beef and carrot, Pork and Chinese leaf and Dill and spiced tofu) , chilli oil chicken, slow cooked beef with Chinese herbs and spices as well as a smattering of vegetarian options the fact that you can pick 2-3 dishes brings variety to your meal. We chose a few dumplings, the seaweed salad and the chilli chicken between two of us. Although the salad was lacking in flavour, the abundance of it found in our other choices more than made up for it.
Aside from the food the cosy atmosphere created by sharing your meal with both your neighbours and the chefs brings me back to the backstreet dumpling houses I experienced during my time in Beijing . You can watch as ‘mama lan’ creates her dumplings with quick fingered precision as well as spy on your fellow diner’s food to see what looks good. Service was great and came with a smile.
Price came in at just over a tenner each, a little pricier than some of the other places in the arcade. However we left with satisfied and full tummy’s. Will definitely be visiting again.
They also run a supper club: http://www.mamalan.co.uk/index.php
Address: 426 Coldharbour Lane, London, SW9 8LF
Telephone: 020 7274 1492
This place has been a restaurant since we can remember. It used to be an Eel and Pie shop which had an advert which said “Why stand outside and be miserable when you can come inside and be fed up” and we feel that it is still true now. This Japanese (hence the name – fried or steamed dumping) and Chinese restaurant is not a gourmet delight but it is a homely place for a cheap, fast, good meal. The staff are warm and friendly and the food comes in record time so even if you thought there was no time to spare before your film begins at the Ritzy you still get the chance to see the adverts if you eat here.
We usually have the hot and salty squid, prawn gyoza, fried seaweed and a quarter of duck to start and then a free for all for the main courses. Thick noodles, thin noodles, hot soups and your choice of meat fish or tofu – however, be warned that the main dishes all extremely generous. This is a Japanese style restaurant so chopsticks are assumed but you can ask for a fork if the seaweed gets a bit risky for your neighbours.
The alcohol is good beer – Asahi is our usual choice. They have others but why roam…