TEETH – from Steak and Teeth
Chewing boulders. Wrestling lions. Cutting a steak with your thumb. As far as manly activities go, none of these come quite as close to “Going for afternoon tea”. (Or at least, that’s what I’ve been telling myself to feel better).
For the inherently masculine man, the appeal of “afternoon tea” can be difficult to understand. Tiny sandwiches. Dainty cakes. Flowery cups of tea. At first glance, it just doesn’t sound like a particularly manly thing to do. However, as a Bengali man, I only need to look to my forefathers – who all drank ample amounts of tea, developed diabetes and enjoyed very short, but happy lives – to realise that a cake and tea binge is in fact, very manly indeed.
With this pretence inserted into my brain, I no longer had any reservations about accompanying Steak to a Middle-Eastern themed afternoon tea at Mamounia Lounge. Knowing that we would be treated to a generous assortment of sweet and savoury treats from Morocco, we decided that it would be a crime not to enjoy a tall pot of Moroccan tea alongside it, and after a skilful, high-pour by our waiter, we tucked into some halloumi sandwiches. Inside, I discovered a rich, buttery spread that harmonised with the soft halloumi and delivered a subtle, aromatic essence of parsley.
Next, we made a move for the briout and sambousek – soft filo pastries filled with a herb-laden mess of gooey cheese. Rich and perfectly salty, these were an absolute delight. In contrast, the vegetable spring roll that sat alongside them had very little to offer, and its flavours failed to leave a lasting impression.
Having thoroughly ransacked our savoury tier, we moved on to the central tier of baklava, and Steak quickly thrust a piece in my direction after failing to take a liking to it. (Thanks). Rich and syrupy, this piece possessed a strong flavour of cardamom and orange, which could certainly be overbearing for some. The pistachio and walnut baklavas however, were a little more easy-going, and so saturated with syrup that I could easily have flooded the restaurant with a single squeeze. The final piece looked like a giant Belvita biscuit, but rest assured, it was far more interesting, (and nowhere near as good for you). Thick, cakey, and buttery, it was a balanced end to this sugar-heavy section of the stand.
After copious amounts of refreshing mint tea, we tucked into the final tier, which sported a handful of macarons and a dark chocolate truffle. Instantly, the chocolate macaron shot to the rank of “my favourite”, as the crispy cookies meshed right into the thick, chocolatey core, which had an almost brownie-like texture and taste. Steak on the other hand, preferred the passion fruit macaron, which was sweet, fruity, and tangy, but (in my opinion), nowhere near as decadent as the chocolate. Our opinions aligned however with the pistachio macaron, which was as bland as it was unloved.
Here, we took a momentary diversion from the tea-stand, and turned our attention to the two cups of mahalabia – a Middle-Eastern yoghurt pudding. The passion fruit mahalabia provided a touch of refreshment – owing to the sharp and acidic passion fruit coulis, but the berry mahalabia lacked significant strength and flavour.
With our belts on the verge of breaking point, we made one last move for the dark chocolate truffle. Thick, smooth and dense, its rich and bitter flavour coated and cleansed the palate, providing a perfect ending note to this Middle-Eastern symphony.
STEAK – from Steak & Teeth
Afternoon tea is traditionally associated with long summer days, but when it’s cold, windy and snowy, tradition can take a back seat. Who has the patience to wait for another three months? You would have to be out of your mind to not want copious amounts of sandwiches, cakes, and tea – especially when it comes with a Middle-Eastern twist. Located in Knightsbridge, Mamounia Lounge provides such an experience, and I made it my mission to drag Teeth along to enjoy it with me.
Famished and freezing, we arrived at Mamounia Lounge and quickly sat down as far away from the door as possible. In keeping with the Middle Eastern theme, we ordered a large pot of Moroccan mint tea and the three-tiered stand, which consisted of savoury items at the bottom and sweet items at the top. Our game plan was to work bottom-up; we began with the savoury items. I absolutely love all things halloumi, so naturally, I dived headfirst into the grilled halloumi sandwiches. The centre was filled with a layer of buttery herbs, and although the halloumi was soft and warm, I felt that it could have done with a little more grilling. Next, we tried the cheese-stuffed filo pastries, which were perfectly gooey and flavourful. Unfortunately, the spring roll wasn’t quite as impressive, as the mixture of crunchy vegetables and soy sauce was rather flat and dull.
We then moved on to the middle tier, which held my favourite Middle-Eastern delicacy – baklava. There were five different pieces drowned in syrup and dusted with pistachio crumbs, and the first piece I picked up had a strong flavor of orange and cardamom. Unfortunately it was too strong for me, so I threw it at the living, breathing, talking food bin sitting in front of me, and promptly moved on. Fortunately, the crushed pistachio and crushed walnut baklavas were crispy, sweet, and balanced, and the Moroccan mint tea served as an excellent palate-cleanser between bites. The final item on this tier was something that looked like a biscuit. After just one bite, this became my favourite Middle-Eastern dessert of the afternoon. Not only did it have a surprisingly cakey texture, but it also possessed a rich, buttery flavor and a very subtle sweetness.
By this point we were pretty full, but we persevered – we are not quitters. The top tier consisted of three macarons and a dark chocolate truffle, and I kindly left half of each item for Teeth – because I’m considerate. (Not really, I just didn’t have space). The chocolate macaron had a crispy outer shell and a soft, thick centre that was perfectly satisfying, whilst the flavourless pistachio macaron was a complete disappointment. Luckily, I ended on the passion fruit macaron, which possessed a balanced mixture of sweet and tangy flavours, and was in my opinion, the best of the lot.
We then turned our attention to the passion fruit and berry mahalabias – neither of which were particularly impressive. Instead, I reached out for the dense ball of hazelnut-covered dark chocolate, which was thick, smooth and wonderfully bitter, and a perfect item to end upon.
Full and satisfied, we cut ourselves out of our chairs and squeezed onto the tube back home. Not only is Mamounia Lounge’s Middle-Eastern interpretation of a quintessentially British custom both unique and memorable, but at £24.50 for two, it’s probably one of the most affordable afternoon tea experiences in London too. What that means, is that you no longer need to look for a special occasion to enjoy a spot of sugar and tea. After all – who has the patience to wait for a valid excuse?
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TEETH – from Steak and Teeth