Last Friday my boyfriend and I were treated to a lovely meal at Mamounia Lounge, Knightsbridge. This lively Lebanese venue recently signed up with Bon Appetit Card, offering cardholders 30% off their bill for groups of up to four, and I was eager to check it out.
Opulently decorated with gold leaf and elaborate detailing, the restaurant was already buzzing when we arrived, filled with people winding down after a long week at work over cocktails and mezze. We relaxed at the bar for a while with a couple of drinks - the Gold-digger for me (like the much-loved Pornstar Martini, this contains fresh passion fruit juice and vanilla vodka, and comes with a shot of champagne on the side - lovely!) and a Manhattan on the rocks for my boyfriend. The bar staff were great: chatty and friendly, they reflected the excellent standard of service which continued to impress us throughout the evening.
Upon finishing our delicious cocktails, we headed over to our table to peruse the menu. Featuring all my favourite Middle Eastern dishes (as well as a good few I was yet to try), we eventually settled upon a platter of mixed mezze and pastilla of chicken to start, and the lamb meshoui (a traditional dish of lamb shoulder marinated in a blend of herbs, spices, nuts and dried fruits) and mixed grill for our mains.
The mezze selection was excellent. Served with two pillowy flat breads, it included an assortment of tasty dips (creamy labneh, earthy hummus, and moutabel, a particularly delicious combination of sesame oil, lemon juice, and smoked aubergine puree), broad beans cooked with coriander and garlic, a mound of summery tabbouleh, and portions of green beans and chickpeas stewed in rich tomato sauce. Yum!
The pastilla of chicken was also very good. Never having tried this particular dish before, I was interested to see how the combination of chicken and icing sugar would taste. In fact, it worked incredibly well: the dainty filo pastry parcels of cinnamon-spiced shredded chicken with their dusting of powdered sugar hit a perfect balance between sweet and savoury, and my boyfriend and I enjoyed them immensely.
My meshoui arrived on a wooden board, meaty chunks of tender slow-cooked lamb piled high in the middle. Garnished with dried apricots, dates and slivers of orange and accompanied by a dish of savoury vegetable gravy, it was absolutely delicious, the combination of sweet fruit, rich, flavourful sauce, and tender flaking meat coming together perfectly.
My boyfriend was also very impressed with his mixed grill, which featured tasty skewers of chargrilled chicken, lamb and kofta (spiced minced lamb), triangles of flatbread, and an assortment of pickles and vegetable accompaniments.
Very full at this point, I had to decline the offer of dessert, opting instead for a large pot of sweetened Moroccan tea. Served in a dainty glass, poured from an beautiful silver teapot, this was a perfect way to end the meal (and a far better digestif than my usual choice of milky coffee).
My boyfriend managed to find the space for something sweet, ordering the mahalabia, a sweet milk pudding garnished with slivers of pistachio. I sneaked a few bites and can report that it was extremely good; smooth and creamy with a pleasant hint of rose-water.
The latter part of our meal was accompanied by in-house entertainment, in the form of a stunning belly dancer, who shimmied her way around the restaurant to a catchy blend of traditional Middle Eastern music and modern house-like beats, accompanied by plenty of clapping and cheering from the on-looking diners!
When the time eventually came to take our leave from Mamounia Lounge, we realised we'd lingered over our meal for close to three hours! It was a truly enjoyable evening, with delicious food, great cocktails, a lively atmosphere, and staff who were as smiley and welcoming as they were efficient. It would be a perfect spot for a lively pre-night-out meal - in fact my boyfriend is already planning a return visit with a group of friends (I think he may have been entranced by the belly-dancer as much as the food!)