Blink while walking along Clapham High Street and you may well miss Mama Lan, a discreet set-up on The Pavement (on the same side of the road as Little Waitrose, walking towards Old Town).
Mama Lan first set up home in Brixton Village but has expanded, with this cute abode as its second premises.
We went early-ish on a Saturday – about 12:45 – and easily got a seat, but predictably it filled up fast so like with most places where you can’t book ahead, it’s worth nabbing a seat early on, unless you don’t mind a short wait.
The layout is simplistic but cosy; exposed brick walls, wooden flooring and tables, but with cute touches – note the plants above the main lighting platform at the front of the restaurant.
Mama Lan serves a pared down menu split into bigger meals with noodles and soup as the base, or smaller, dim sum style snacking (dangerous, if you’re comparing it to visiting somewhere like Ping Pong).
We ordered the Spicy Beef Noodle Soup and Spicy Chicken Ban Mein, along with Pork & Chinese Leaf dumplings. Their dumplings are cooked fresh on site so expect a short wait, but to be honest it’s hardly a bother when you’ve got the comfort of knowing they’re not just taken out of the freezer – oh and they taste amazing, too.
The mains certainly have a kick to them – we took advantage of the free water on offer – but as you’d expect from Chinese food, it was fresh and vibrant – think lemongrass, fresh chills, peanuts etc.
In terms of atmosphere, Mama Lan has nailed a chilled ambience. The service is swift but not brisk – we ourselves were in a rush but we got the impression they’d happily let you stay there and munch on dumplings for hours (well, within their opening times, of course). We may just do that one day…