From the deserts and souks of Bahrain to South Kensington, a taste of the Middle East arrives on Elystan Street this month. Bahraini chef and restauranteur Roaya Saleh is transporting Villa Mama from the Saar district of Bahrain and bringing with it the seasonal home-style dishes, flavours and culinary traditions from across the Khaleej, Persia and beyond.
With an emphasis on ‘mezzeh’ sharing plates the menu is a whistlestop tour of the GCC countries, those states grouped around Saudi Arabia including Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Yemen. Dishes like Khubus, a Tandoor-cooked flatbread served with meyhawa, a Bahraini speciality of fermented sardine sauce (made especially for Villa Mama’s by Roaya’s aunt), Mathrooba, which is slow-cooked chicken, rice and cracked wheat, or lamb and feta kofta with cherry molasses. Larger plates will include Sayadieh, turbot cooked in stock with pilaf and onions and Tacheen, a saffron rice cake layered with spiced chicken and pine nuts. Not to mention pudding, which will feature Muhalabia, a rose water rice pudding, almonds and pomegranate and Um Ali, an Egyptian bread and butter pudding.
Chef Roaya Saleh started cooking at an early age having spent summers on her family farms and and helping her mother and grandmother in the kitchen. Her dream was always to open a restaurant and Villa Mama opened in Bahrain six years ago to local aclaim. Saleh sees the move to London as the next natural move.
Open daily from 8am Villa Mama will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner from the space designed by Erta Designs, with furniture, artwork and textiles drawing on Saleh’s heritage and travels. The dining room seats 50 at pedestal tables with Breccia violetta marble tops and vintage church chairs. The reclaimed Parisian shop counter sets off the rustic mood.
Villa Mama: Opens 25th September, 25-27 Elysian Street, Chelsea, SW3 3NT www.villamamaslondon.com
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Phil is Deputy Editor at The Handbook. A Northerner cast away in South London he loves to write about food and travel. He also has a black belt in scotch egg eating.