Clapham High Street is a strange beast. At one end, the Common, where lithe young things throw about an oval ball and drink pale ale, swiping right more enthusiastically with every sip. At the other, Clapham North and a clutch of lively, friendly watering holes. In between though, with a couple of notable exceptions, is a strange wasteland of Sainsburys upon Sainsburys and shops selling dustpans. Right bang in the middle, surprisingly unassuming compared to the liveliness within, is Mommi.
Mommi is a Nikkei restaurant serving small plates and contemporary cocktails. Some may balk at the suggestion of Peruvian meets Japanese. ‘Fusion? CONfusion more like!’, the wags among us will say, oblivious to the large Japanese diaspora in Peru, the historical ties between the country and the fact BBC writers likely penned that quip for Gregg Wallace.
The similarities between the two cuisines are abundant, with a love of fresh seafood – raw or lightly cured – and an appreciation of vibrant, light flavours which pack punch behind the colourful aesthetics. This is less mismatch, and more marriage made in heaven. Mommi plays cupid to these two bedfellows commendably.
Roughly equidistant between Clapham Common and North underground stations, the building is black, white and on the street, yet feels unimposing. Look out for the bright yellow sofa which sits outside and you won’t miss it.
We visited on a Sunday night, a time when the Clapham denizen are at their most domesticated, gripped by a fear of the looming working week and a regret of the two previous days. Mommi, to its credit however, was heaving. Young folk drank in pisco sours and each other’s tales of the weekends antics, with laughter abundant. There is an open kitchen and open flames to match, with spacious booths suggestive of Mommi being a popular choice for larger parties. The wait staff were well-informed and eager to share tips, making customers feel their selections were astute and emblematic of a well travelled soul – a neat trick in the world of service. Did we mention they have a stand-out power-ballad bottomless brunch and late night live music?
The menu is divided into fish, meat, veg and sides, with a couple of specials relayed by our waiter. The garnish and vegetable side of things took on the colour and textures of Peru more than Japan, with lots of bright, vibrant purees of sweetcorn and avocado. Particularly fine were sugar snap peas dressed with sesame – super crunchy and with the slightest bitter note provided by ginger oil. We could’ve had a few bowls, guilt-free.
When sides and vegetables are strong, a certain faith in the kitchen’s ability with protein prevails.With sashimi and cerviche in mind, we leant heavily on the sea. Their rendition of fish’n’chips straddled familiarity and fun with a light touch, wasabi mayo bringing its ever-reliable nose clearing qualities. Scallops with chorizo and serrano ham seemed a fish out of water on the menu – the introduction of a third cuisine maybe a step too far – but within the narrative of the meal, swam confidently alongside our other dishes. Meat mainly took on flavours of the flame, and was no the worse for it.
A strong cocktail showing seemed a good place to start, utilising sake and citrus fruit flavourings from Japan. Next to them, Latin offerings which we’re sure came with the flavours of sunshine and a mini-umbrella to garnish. Light Japanese draught beer and locally brewed crafts rubbed along nicely with the food. The wine list draws purely from Latin America and the Iberian peninsula – no bad thing in the context.
All dishes worked harmoniously in the spirit of the sharing meal, but the stand out was the Chicken Pachamanca. The flame-grilled bird had taken on that smokiness from the grill, and the supporting cast of vivid Peruvian vegetables, sweet and yielding, added a fine balance.
Ideal for big groups trying to wring the last out of the weekend, or a pair of lovebirds tentatively starting it, Mommi caters for a mixed, buoyant crowd. They have also gained gluten free accreditation from Coeliac UK so sharing is easy for all. The open plan kitchen and sociable seating plan make for a lively occasion, with privacy provided if one wishes to whisper sweet nothings rather than yelled somethings. The sharing format of the food fits this mood, all in all proving Japan and Peru to be very compatible companions indeed.
Address: 44-48 Clapham High St, London SW4 7UR
Disclosure: IDEAL Magazine dined as a guest of the restaurant