SquareMeal Review of
Chef and restaurateur Roaya Saleh has brought her Villa Mama concept over from Bahrain to the well-heeled streets of Chelsea. A few doors down from Phil Howard’s Elystan Street, the relaxed, cosy space features tables topped with marble, vintage chapel chairs and piles of comfy scatter cushions. Open daily from 8am, Villa Mama’s breakfast offering centres around khubus (a tandoor-cooked flatbread), served with eggs and cheese, or jam and yoghurt. On our evening visit, the menu had switched focus to sharing plates and the crowd is decidedly Chelsea; from the tapas-style starters, we enjoyed cinnamon-coated, tender lamb kofta served atop creamy mash with bursts of cherry molasses, alongside a stack of grilled aubergine; soft and crunch contrasted thanks to a layer of caramelised onion and walnuts. Larger plates meanwhile include an aromatic, taste bud-busting lamb stew, peppered with herbs and kidney beans, and fall-off-the-bone braised lamb shank with rosemary and pine nuts. Desserts are also influenced by Saleh’s heritage, including the likes of a fragrant rose water rice pudding, and an Egyptian twist on bread and butter pudding. To drink, there are glasses of house wine and a range of cocktails, while guests can also purchase the restaurant’s own brand herbs and spices. Prices are high, but with such homey cooking, we think Saleh is on to a winner.