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.
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