Mama Lan is a small family owned enterprise that brings authentic northern Chinese street food to south west London. The venture was inspired by the owner's grandparents, who used to make their own street food in China, and is named in honour of her mother. Mama Lan's began as a North London supperclub and has now been spin into two successful cafés - one in Brixton and the other on Clapham Highstreet. Earlier this week I paid a visit to the café in Clapham and I was very pleasantly surprised by the dinky venue and concise menu.
Mama Lan's Clapham restaurant is small and unassuming - I've actually walked past it many times without really paying it much attention! However, once inside I found the space comfortable, well-lit and incredibly atmospheric. Mama Lan has a characteristic charm that instantly won me over, I liked the feel of the place and I felt completely transported away from the rush-hour hubbub going on just outside its doors.
The menu is rather limited but I liked that Mama Lan isn't trying to do everything - it has some tried and tested favourites and works to produce them to a high standard. That being said, I thought the array of drinks available was pretty impressive and absolutely loved the Lychee Orchard Mocktails (£3.00) which really complimented the spicy main dishes. I opted for a Spicy Chicken Ban Mein Noodle Salad (£9.00) which was very generously portioned and featured a lot more chicken and noodles than I'd expected. I wouldn't personally call this a salad, it's more like a chilled noodle dish with plently of sauce and a healthy topping of fresh vegetables. It is spicy but not so much as to ruin the meal, although I did find the sauce a little bit saltier than I prefer. Overall, I think it was a tasty dish and I'd definitely eat it again, but I do think that it could benefit from more variety in texture (perhaps from the inclusion of some beansprouts or even fresh fruit) and a slightly more complex sauce.
As well as noodle dishes, Mama Lan also offers up some traditional street food. I was particularly excited to try the Spicy Pork Buns (£5.00) as my first taste of asian buns at Taste of London was such a success! However, although I really liked the Spicy Pork Buns they weren't everything I'd expected them to be. The meat was delicious but the buns weren't that airy and had a very bread-like feel to them that rendered them a little heavier and stodgier than I thought they would be.
For me, the star of Mama Lan's menu was without a doubt the dumplings. I tried the Woodear Mushroom, Spinach and Vermicilli Beijing Dumplings (£5.00) and thought that their texture was absolutely beyond reproach! I was perhaps a tad disappointed that they didn't enjoy a strong mushroom flavour, but a touch of soy sauce left gave them the finishing touch they needed. I would return to Mama Lan's just for the dumplings, so if you only try one dish then I'd definitely recommend them.
You can check out Mama Lan online
or visit their Clapham restaurant Monday-Friday 6pm-10pm