West London welcomes a Bahrainian restaurant in upmarket and convivial surroundings
Bahrain doesn’t get much press, to be fair. It is a small island state off the coast of Saudi Arabia, although linked by an amzing 16-mile over-the-sea road. It has been ruled by various different countries over the years, leaving behind an indelible set of culinary influences in the way that these things do.
Now, with 1.5m people living there and nearly half being foreign, a melting pot cuisine has developed yet obviously mostly influenced by the Arab world.
And with a lot of financial and oil-related activity in the country, and associated wealth, it is no great surprise that a Bahrainian restaurant in London, Villa Mamas, has chosen to open in upmarket Chelsea (Elystan Street, no less) and that its menu is dominated by Arab dishes. And by all accounts, its clientele follow along similar lines.
The joint itself is the sister restaurant of one that already exists in Bahrain and is the work of a lady banker turned chef – hence the prices!
But the menu is hugely evocative, with Tahcheen, a saffron rice cake with chicken, pine nuts and barberries; or halibut sabzi, grilled halibut with a pilaf and a herb sauce. At some point pasta snuck in to the Bahrainian diet and a penne “mountain” featuring spinach and baked mushrooms with gratin offers veggies a way in.
Elsewhere quinoa, aubergine, cracked wheat and goat ghee all make an appearance with rose water rice pudding ready for your attention at the end. Villa Mamas is an all-dayer for wiling away a few lazy hours and enjoying coffee and cake too. And why not.