Situated on Elystan Street in Chelsea is the first international outpost for chef and restaurateur Roaya Saleh. Opened in September, Villa Mama’s brings Bahraini home style cooking to London. As a lover of other Middle Eastern cuisine I was excited to give Villa Mama’s a go.
With its sister restaurant located in Bahrain’s Saar district, the Middle Eastern neighbourhood vibe was felt from the outset as a couple of locals sat at the traditional café style benches lined along the pavement.
Inside the restaurant I felt instantly at home. The intimate and unpretentious interiors were inspired by Roaya’s heritage, with stonewashed walls adorned with handmade textiles and the comfiest cushioned benches. There is a secluded courtyard to the rear of the restaurant which serves as the restaurant’s herb garden and homemade jams can be purchased from the main counter.
The seasonal fare at Villa Mama’s is designed for sharing whether you are into small plates, big plates or both! We started with a selection of the small plates; the quinoa tabbouleh, kofta and warak enab. I had also wanted to sample Baba’s tikka which was comprised of hummus with chargrilled lamb, unfortunately this was finished for the day. The tabbouleh was exceedingly fresh and tasty accompanied by a drizzle of pomegranate molasses, which is a great addition to any dish. The kofta was sensational, again with a cherry molasses and the creamiest potatoes. It was a bit like a Middle Eastern sausage, mash and gravy and it went down a treat. The vine leaves packed a punch with a prominent tang of lemon and herbs.
For mains we ordered the halibut sazbi with herb pilaf and spicy green sauce as well as the tacheen, a saffron rice cake layered with chicken, pine nuts and barberries, served with yoghurt. The halibut was cooked to perfection however the spicy green sauce was not so spicy (which is good for me as I am adverse to heat). I actually ended up eating the sauce alongside the tacheen which was very flavoursome however slightly dry. The portions were huge and we were so stuffed I could have quite easily sunk into the comfy cushions for a post-dinner nap, however that might have had something to do with sinking a couple of the delectable craft cocktails.
I did not make it to dessert however there are so many more dishes I would like to try I will definitely be returning to Villa Mama’s. The laid back atmosphere combined with the accommodating and more than attentive staff makes for a wonderful evening out. Although the restaurant is open from 8am and I’ve heard they make an exceptional breakfast…
Villas Mama’s, 25 Elystan St, Chelsea, London SW3 3NT
020 3034 0777