Andy Mossack reviews Mamalu Italian Restaurant in London’s Earls Court.
Earl’s Court Road may not automatically resonate with you as a fine dining destination but look closer and you will find a few clusters of restaurants tucked away far from the madding crowd.
The term Kangaroo Valley was once the label here because of its large Ozzie community, but ambitious new restauranteurs are spreading further west to escape the large rents of South Kensington.
Amongst the green shoots of this foodie neighbourhood, you’ll find Mamalu Italian restaurant, attempting to bridge that divide between a friendly neighbourhood resto and a fine dining destination.
Although the mean streets of Earl’s Court Road are well worn and weathered, there’s no doubting the interior deco of Mamalu is quite the opposite, courtesy of celebrated Italian restaurant designer Andrea Bassi. Light and contemporary tones of tan and beige with each table decorated with a rich white tablecloth and its own bijou lamp add to the well-heeled vibe.
Owner manager Nicola is a veteran of Anglo Italian hospitality from his time at Covent Garden Italian staple VyTA and he’s keen to point out his Mamalu Italian restaurant is an entirely different experience. “We have sourced the best fish and seafood suppliers across Britain and Italy using certified boats to deliver freshly caught produce directly to our kitchen. That’s my guarantee.”
He told me this as he placed a small pan of nibbles on the table. Warm Sicilian olives from the Valle del Belice (£3.50). This was a first, warm plump olives that went down a treat.
It’s an ambitious and noble strategy, and one that’s needed if he’s going to jump into the fine dining ring with his gloves off. And there’s no doubt, fresh fish and seafood is front and centre at Mamalu with a raw bar dominating the menu. The hero dish of which is the Plateau Royal sharing plate: twin sets of Mazara red prawns, Sicilian langoustines, and pink prawns, four oysters, and small dollops of red tuna tartare. (£76).
Rather than go the full seafood monty I decided to try the red tuna tartare with avocado and rocket (£22). Large juicy squares of red tuna mounted on a thick wheel of smashed avocado and it was delicious. My dining companion veered away from the raw bar and instead went the fried route of friturra misto a tempura-esque salad of squid, red prawns and courgette with a temptingly spicy dip. (£16). Equally impressive and, he announced, resoundingly fresh.
Although Mamalu’s intention is to focus on fresh and sustainable fish and seafood, carnivore preferences are well catered for with veal cutlets and steaks 28 day aged in Himalayan salt.
I felt compelled to try the filet and it didn’t disappoint. A belter cut of prime filet with a demi-glace jous waiting patiently in a small side bowl (£31). Curiously, the side choices were minimal; for greens, either pan fried wild chicory (£7) or sauteed escarole (£9) (which is a kind of endive) while there was just one type of potato and that was mashed (£7).
I took the pan-fried chicory, which was surprisingly adorable, almost like spinach with a hint of garlic. It went perfectly with my wonderful filet, so the lack of other potato choices went under the radar.
My earlier mention of the attempt at also being a neighbourhood resto seemed to be addressed with a monthly menu at £49 proudly positioned at the top of the menu. A selection of six dishes with a bit of everything, from black truffle arancini and sauteed British mussels to freshly made pasta carbonara and homemade tiramisu.
Mamalu Italian Restaurant certainly brings a touch of Italian glamour to Earl’s Court Road, and its focus on fresh and sustainable fish and seafood is a sound move. But can it really appeal to fine diners and still be the neighbourhood resto? Time will tell.
Images (C) Andy Mossack
Tell me more about Mamalu Italian Restaurant
Mamalu Italian Restaurant, 314 Earls Ct Rd, London SW5 9BQ
T: 020 3870 5594