Mem & Laz Brasserie is a Mediterranean and Middle Eastern fusion restaurant located in the heart of hipster Islington. To say that the interior looks eclectic, would be an understatement, as the second you enter the premises, you are visually assaulted with an abundance of colourful hanging lamps, handmade mosaic chandeliers and West End posters; all of which provide a warm and intimate atmosphere, along with a vintage Souk Bazaar feel. For an instant, we felt like we needed to either barter or haggle for our food, as the decor transported us to the Souks of Marrakech.
While being seated, our initial impression was that the restaurant was quite small and cluttered to the brim with artefacts and ornaments. But the restaurant is like a TARDIS from Dr Who, housing a labyrinth of subterranean chambers, so large that it could declare itself as a small independent nation.
On to the food. The first dish we ordered was “Chargrilled Chicken Liver with Red Onion salad”. The Liver was firm on the outside and delicately soft and tender on the inside; cooked divinely. In terms of taste, the flavours were too mild. There was a slight piquancy of the chargrill marinade, apart from that it neither had the fresh, citrusy, herby flavours of the Mediterranean, nor the bold spices of the Middle East. The dish was still pleasant, it just simply lacked identity, but had the potential to be so much more.
For mains, we opted for the “M & L Mixed Grill” consisting of fillet of lamb, kofte, chicken wings, chicken fillet, lamb chop and lamb sausage with grilled pepper, tomato, mixed salad, basmati rice, chilli sauce and avocado and cheese salad.
This was undoubtedly one of the better mixed grills we have tasted. The avocado and cheese salad was a surprise superstar, as the sweet and buttery smooth avocado married perfectly with the sharp and delicious Mediterranean cheese. The Kofta was packed full of herbs and Middle Eastern spices, and the meat was tender and delicate, each bite was a joy. The lamb sausage was a gastronomical delight, very similar in taste to Sujuc (spicy Turkish sausage). The lamb fillet was cooked very well; soft and tender, with a moreish and satisfying taste. The chicken fillet and wings were extremely pleasant, with a herby and grilled smoked flavour, and the rice, which so many restaurants fail to master, was fluffy and unexpectedly full of piquancy. The lamb chops was slightly chewy and needed more tenderising, and was the only flaw in this almost perfectly executed dish.
The “Kleftico – Roast Knuckle of Lamb” was the next dish that we ordered.
The lamb was cooked to perfection; it was tender, succulent, delicate and tearing off the bone with absolutely no effort. However, it tasted a bit like a buttery Korma dish with an inconspicuous gravy flavour emanating through. The taste was by no means unpleasant, just slightly confusing and too subtle. It just needed a big handful of spices to make the flavours bold and striking. The vegetables were well seasoned and perfectly al dente and the rice, once again expertly cooked. This dish would probably fare better with a Western palate rather than a palate that craves spice and heat.
The penultimate dish was the “Sautéed Mixed Seafood”, with calamari, mussels, king prawns, baby prawns and salmon, sautéed with tomatoes, spring onions, garlic and lemon juice, served with rice (we asked for the white wine to be removed).
I truly enjoy a quality fish cuisine, that is flavoursome and not overly fishy. Unfortunately this dish tasted like mild tomato soup, with also the taste of the ocean in it. Potentially this dish has the seafood ingredients to be stunning, but to our taste, it needed a kick of heat or more fresh herbs and seasonings to reduce the strong fish taste.
We completed our meal with a “Warm Chocolate Brownie” served with ice cream.
The Brownie was firm on the outside and moist and gooey on the inside and was lovely and pleasant. But not one of the best Brownies that we have tasted. It needed to be more rich and decadent in flavour to satisfy our passion for desserts.
For drinks, the mocktails that we ordered were the “Mojito”, which personally I would have preferred it to be a bit more sharper and sweeter in taste, but nonetheless, still flavoursome. “Virgin Mary”, which is a concoction of tomato juice, pepper sauce, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce. The Virgin Mary did not agree to our tastebuds. However, the staff did warn us against it, but we wanted to try something different, and different it was, as the first sip ignited a fire in my throat and possibly a few stomach ulcers. It is definitely an acquired taste. We also ordered the “Virgin Pina Colada”. Even though this was a satisfying concogtion, the prominent flavour was the coconut milk, which made the drink slightly too milky and not as refreshing as we would have hoped.
Mem and Laz certainly offer a varied selection of dishes for meat lovers to vegetarians to seafood lovers. There are elements of the food in our opinion which could be improved, in the sense that the dishes tend to be a little confused and lacking in identity, such as not knowing whether it should be a Mediterranean dish or a Middle Eastern dish.
However, Mem and Laz Brasserie is truly a gem in the heart of trendy Islington. Its popularity is so great that the restaurant had no choice but to expand, which it did by buying up the venue next door. The menu is extensive and diverse, appealing to a variety of tastes and the venue itself is something that needs to be seen to be believed.
If you are looking for something a little bit different, then be sure to follow Mem and Laz Brasserie’s Fusion Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Halal Food Journey.
*We were invited to review.