Villa Mama's, Chelsea: restaurant review
We get acquainted with the distinctively delicious flavours of Bahraini and Persian cooking at Villa Mama's on Elystan Street
What's the draw:
Having learned to adore the elegant spice of Middle Eastern cooking at the hands of chefs like Yotam Ottolenghi and Sabrina Ghayour, London's love affair with Persian cuisine continues with Villa Mama's – a beautiful, approachable restaurant on the not-always-approachable Elystan Street in Chelsea. The Khaleej and Persian kitchen comes from Roaya Saleh, a restaurateur who set up the first Villa Mama's in her homeland of Bahrain five years ago.
What to drink:
Villa Mama's wasted no time in getting itself acquainted with London's excellent crop of producers; on the menu you'll find seasonal Square Root sodas – made in Hackney – and beers from the Bermondsey-based Kernel Brewery. There's a lovely cocktail list, too, but we went straight for the wine, specifically the white Bordeaux-style Lebanese Ixsir Altitude 2016 – crisp and fruity on the nose, with plenty of citrus and green apple on the palate.
What to eat:
We aren't often ones to advocate a salad, but here we'd say they're unmissable. The kale and apple option was like eating (actually) great-tasting kale crisps, while the quinoa tabbouleh was packed with herbs and the juicy burst of pomegranate seeds. Then, of course, hummus: velvety, salty, laden with tahini and totally addictive. Elsewhere, we tucked into kaskhe bademjoon – 'eggplant explosion', or aubergine layered with whey sauce, caramelised onions and crunchy walnuts – while a generous, flakey wedge of halibut came with fragrant rice and a coriander-packed spicy green sauce. All reasons to visit in their own right, but we'd come back for dessert alone: a dense, unbelievably creamy saffron ice cream topped with crispy candyfloss, and rose water rice pudding that tasted inexplicably like utterly delicious hand cream. Seriously.
Wine from £5.50 by the glass. Mains from £15.50. 25-27 Elystan Street, SW3 3NT. 020 3034 0777; villamamas.co.uk