As I am an incorrigible drama queen, I have on more than one occasion professed my undying love for a loaf of freshly baked bread. I’m only a bit sorry that a certain someone had to find out this way. The smell, the warmth, the taste… the perfect combination of all these elements would cause that same drama queen to go so far as to proclaim that her life would be over if she couldn’t eat bread again. You may think I am labouring my point but those who have seen me tear into a crusty baguette will know that my feelings are real. I feel utter sadness for those who truly (no, not you gluten-free fadsters) can’t eat real gluten-laden goods again… and not only because of the loss of that bready loveliness from your life. But really because gluten manages to sneak into so, so many foods!
I know that some of you didn’t care much for bread in the first place, and many of you are happily coping with alternatives but even the saints must admit it’s annoying how gluten finds its way into the most unexpected of things. I salute you for staying calm when you look at a menu and consider what you can or cannot eat, as opposed to what you want to eat. I obviously can’t solve this for you but I can tell you about a magical place in Clapham where they’ve banished gluten for good. Gluten-free folks, meet Mommi.This casual spot on Clapham High Street serves Nikkei cuisine, a delectable fusion of Japanese and Peruvian flavours which results in a fresh, vibrant style of food.
Nikkei dishes are generally already low in the gluten stakes, but Mommi decided to take it one step further and become gluten-free accredited by Coeliac UK. While 90% of their menu might have already been good to go, sorting out that last 10% was trickier than you might have thought. The main culprits in this challenge were the sauces and marinades as most contained soy sauce. So the chefs switched to tamari, a type of wheat-free soy sauce, tinkered with the recipes to ensure the flavour profiles were perfect, and finally got the seal of approval from Coeliac UK! They may have lost the gluten but they didn’t lose any of the style and substance you expect from Nikkei cuisine.
Mommi have a great range of cocktails so if you’re just in for a drink, make sure you get some corn and lime tortillas to nibble on; they’re great with a dollop of the smashed avo or pepper and queso dip. But I would obviously recommend you stay for something more substantial. We started with ceviche; one with raw tuna and salmon in a mango leche de tigre, and the other of cold-poached octopus and shrimp with tomatoes and red pepper in a citrus leche de tigre. Both were bountiful when it came to the seafood, but perhaps a little more mellow in the acidity levels than we were expecting. They were good as they were but my ultimate combination would have been the raw fish from one with the citrus sauce from the other!
Our waiter talked up the miso and aji panca marinaded flank steak, and now it’s my turn to do the same. We asked for it rare and they delivered; the brazen, slightly bitter, charred crust was the ideal contrast to the sweet, juicy flesh. But if I could only choose one meat dish again (this is obviously in some parallel universe where I’m being punished) then it would be the green tea miso lamb cutlets with salsa. I’ve had quite the education when it comes to Indian style lamb cutlets lately, but the Nikkei flavours provide more of the sweet, salty and spicy balance which I prefer. They gave us some beastly knives to use on them but as with the flank steak, the bluntest of instruments would glide through it without a hitch.
We were so distracted by the hunky meat dishes, we forgot that we still had the pan-fried scallops and serrano ham on smashed peas, and a side of asparagus, tenderstem and sugar snap peas to come. I am unlikely to order the scallops again purely because the hint of mint in the peas, though very slight, was still too much for my sensitive tastes. I thought it was a tad odd having these delicate dishes come after the meat, but we did appreciate ending on a slightly lighter note. Until the dessert arrived, that is. While the chocolate mousse itself was light and airy, pairing dark chocolate with caramel popcorn results in something quite the opposite. Being an incorrigible sweet tooth as well as a drama queen, I managed to single-handedly get through about half of it before throwing my arms up in defeat!
Neither of us have a gluten intolerance or allergy but we can still appreciate what an undertaking it was for Mommi to go from mostly to completely gluten-free. Whatever tweaks and changes they needed to make to their recipes have had absolutely no detrimental effects on the dishes; their flavours will tingle your tastebuds and the portions will fill you up to the brim. So regardless of whether gluten is your friend or foe, Mommi is a great choice for a cool, casual meal in the heart of Clapham’s high street!
Do you have a gluten intolerance or allergy? Can it make eating out a bit trickier?!
Thanks to Mommi for a flavour-filled and gluten-free evening, but as always, all opinions are mine and mine alone!
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