One should never take the food scene in London for granted. It is eclectic, vibrant, quirky and often indulgent which makes it all the more exciting. Since realising I could not eat gluten, I feared at first what this would mean for my relationship with London’s eateries but thanks to restaurants like Mommi, which has just received accreditation from Coeliac UK, my faith is constantly being restored.
Mommi – a Japanese-Peruvian fusion restaurant – first opened its doors on Clapham High Street in South West London in 2015. I grew up and continue to live South of the river, so this location could not have been more dreamy for myself or the wonderful South London entourage of gluten free bloggers I ate with. The restaurant has a mixture of seating options from high to low tables, and an aesthetically pleasing bar complete with elegant high stools – perfect for views of the cocktail making process. Upon arrival we were seated at one of the classic round booth-style tables which line the back wall of Mommi. We all began with a BrewDog Vagabond Pale Ale after immediately spotting it on the menu with a large GF next to it – something you will not see on the main menu given all food at Mommi is now 100% gluten free. The restaurant went from a 75% gluten free menu when it launched to a no gluten zone exactly one year later: no small feat for an eatery or cuisine that historically used a lot of soy in its sauces. “The substitution process of this for Tamari really took some time to ensure there was no flavor compromise,” a Mommi spokesperson explained.
To accompany our beers, we ordered one of each appetiser after deciding we simply could not leave any out. The steamed edamame, which comes salty or spicy depending on preference, flash-fried Padron peppers with crushed sea salt and corn and lime tortillas served with smashed avocado, and a picante fresh cheese dip were the perfect start to our evening of indulgence and gave us fuel to peruse the rest of the menu. It is hard to not be shocked when presented with the menu at Mommi given the extensive list of choices, but the helpful, dynamic staff are always at the ready to answer questions or make suggestions. After much discussion, our waiter advised us to choose one of the set menu options on the menu, which is made up of sharing plates – seven to be exact. We opted for the Fuji Set Menu between three of us, and were advised to choose two more dishes to accompany it. The staff were incredibly accommodating and happily served our friend currently sticking to a Fod Map diet dishes from the delicious weekend brunch menu.
Once the feast started to arrive, we realised just how fresh the ingredients used by Mommi are. The plates were by no means small either, which was a pleasant surprise after years of frequenting London tapas bars and having to eat a large number of plates in order to feel sufficiently fed. We started with the Mixed Chirashi Sushi – a bowl full of tuna, salmon, seabass and tobiko which comes on a bed of seasoned sushi rice, topped with house tartare sauce. Alongside this rainbow-like bowl we had a platter of flame seared tuna tataki which was served with onion ponzu, warm heirloom tomatoes, hazelnuts and drizzled in truffle oil. Our fresh fish choices were by no means “traditional” – I would call them sushi with a twist and also an opportunity for me to not embarrass myself with my inefficient chopstick skills, given the fish and rice came unassembled in a bowl and laid out on fresh vegetables.
Before we could recover from our tantalising first courses, the warm Yakitori salmon with lime butter sauce, black sesame seeds and coriander cress arrived, followed swiftly by lamb cutlets Yakitori, with green tea miso, aji lomo, coriander and salsa ocopa. Both were piping hot and perfectly seasoned. Having never been a huge fan of lamb, I surprised myself when I selected the cutlets as my top dish of the night: perfectly grilled on the outside and wonderfully moist on the inside. Three of us munched away happily on our set menu and delicious traditional Peruvian Pisco Sours cocktails, whilst our fourth diner plunged into Fod Map heaven, with a plate of perfectly poached eggs atop crusty gluten free toast with smashed avocado and a generous helping of oak smoked salmon on the side.
By now we were full but simply could not say no to what awaited us. Mommi’s new and highly celebrated chicken pachamanca dish came atop sweet potato, giant peruvian corn and Rocoto peppers, wish a quinoa lime picante sauce. The braised sticky short rib of beef arrived simultaneously which could easily serve as a main dish alone for anyone wanting to invest in a single plate from the a la carte menu. It was upon tucking into these two meat options that that we realised we might just have overdone it. We ploughed on though, with no complaints as the golden dish – Nikkei tempura fish and cassava chips – arrived. The fish was flaky and wrapped in a light, crunchy batter – offset perfectly by the wasabi mayo on the side for dipping. I took one for the team and polished off the cassava chips – a delicacy I indulged in almost every day on recent trips to Cuba and Colombia where cassava or yuca act as the main starch in homes and on restaurant menus.
For all our efforts, we still could not say no to dessert, given the rather unusual and exciting situation we found ourselves in, with no sweet option off limits. We selected the passion fruit cheesecake, which was served in a petit mason jar and topped with buttery cookie crumble so good that it was hard to believe it was gluten free.
Overall, our night at Mommi could not have been better. The impeccable service means you will never go hungry nor wonder where your next course is, and nor will you fret about allergens – something which can never be underestimated when dining out. The kitchen and front of house staff went out of their way to make us feel comfortable and I am already enthusiastically awaiting my next visit, when I will indulge in a weekend bottomless brunch. This three course feast served on Saturday and Sunday is a bargain at £32.50 per person, complete with unlimited prosecco or sparkling rose. If you prefer an evening affair, step inside Mommi on a Friday or Saturday night, where you can go straight from dinner to the dance floor with DJs playing Latin tunes until the small hours.