I used to live in Dubai, so when I picked up the sweet smell of fruity shisha smoke wafting from the small outdoor terrace of Mamounia Lounge it took me right back to those warm nights of puffing away under the stars. Similarly, inside, the newly-refurbished Mayfair branch (the other one’s in Knightsbridge) oozed Dubai-esque glitz, with deep red lighting, velvet seats and gold furnishings. This ‘VIP-club-lounge’ look helps with the party atmosphere, making this spot ideal for dinner with a group of friends, gearing yourself up for the night ahead with long, spicy cocktails, tasty food and entertainment in the form of Middle Eastern musicians and belly dancers on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Arabic food is mainly Lebanese-inspired and consists of hot and cold mezze and spiced and grilled meats and fish. Simple, yet ridiculously tasty. We shared four starters between two: a fattoush salad of crisp lettuce and cucumber with toasted pitta and pomegranate seeds was delicious with smoky aubergine moutabal and scooped up with some hot, fluffy Arabic bread. You can never go wrong with cheese and pastry, and the gooey cheese sambousek was no exception, while the seeded goats’ cheese deep-fried and served with caramelised onions offered a gourmet twist to the otherwise simple yet very effective dishes.
The shish tawook was a slight let down for me: the spiced, grilled chicken is usually served with bread spread with sweet tomato and a garlic paste dip, but at Mamounia the chicken came alone, although it was still full of flavour. The selection of tagines is a better bet: the fish one was rich and delightfully spiced with huge chunks of cod and prawn. You can finish off with a fresh fruit platter or sweet and sticky backlava pastries, but we couldn’t resist the molten chocolate fondant; not very Arabic, but very delicious.
Behind the bar:
At a lot of bars you see the same-old cocktail list, but Mamounia has added its signature to a lot of the long tipples, with cardamom, basil and lots of fresh berries adding a delicious twist.
Mamounia is in Mayfair people, so you’re not going to be going home with a full wallet: starters average at £7 (and you should get around two dishes per person), mains around £17, desserts £9.
A great spot for starting a big night out with a group of friends.
37a Curzon Street, Mayfair, W1J 7TX Tube: Green Park mamounialounge.com