I have been to this restaurant twice now. Unfortuantely it has been really really disappointing both times. The staff are rude and unattentive, if you expect eye contact, a smile or noises that are actually words not just grunts from waitresses do not go here. The food is also very disappointing, the menu is small and does not offer much choice. On my first visit I had a noodle soup and it wasn't too bad, nothing special but nothing bad. On my second visit my boyfriend and I were particually hungry so we thought we would splash out and try a bit of everything - massive disappointment. I sent my main back immediately, tried the rest of the food at it was so disappointing, we had one bit of each dish and decided there was no way we would pay over £40 for what we had been served. We apologised politely and left a tip for their trouble, however were still told that we were rude and 'unhumanitarian' (I mean come on what?) for not paying for our meal. Only place in Brixton village that I have had a bad experience, to top it off it wasn't just one but 2 bad experiences. Really disappointing. Never going back. I would also advise if it were my restaurant I would give the staff some training in customer service and courtesy, or hire some new ones. Oh, whilst we were there one waitress also spilt a customers drink all over their apple mac. Not good!
Time Out rating:
Time Out says
Posted: Sat Oct 1 2011
The best thing that has come out of the rebranding of the old Granville Arcade to the yuppie-sounding Brixton Village Market has been the unprecedented wave of interesting, independent eateries cultivated within. The small shop units and ramshackle appearance of the covered arcade already had the right sort of bohemian look.
But now on a Thursday or Friday night the place is heaving with a mix of young local Brixtonites and visiting gastro-tourists, who glow with the satisfaction of finding Japanese okonomiyaki or freshly made Italian pasta in one of London’s less prosperous postcodes.
Cynics might brand Brixton Village Market as gentrification by ‘outsiders’, but to dismiss it in this way is unfair on the passionate, creative individuals – many of them Brixton residents – who have opened businesses here. In a time where soul-crushingly conformist commercial complexes like One New Change and the behemoths that are the Westfield shopping centres creep all over the capital, the truly vibrant nature of the Village is to be celebrated, not scorned.
Mama Lan, one of the newest arrivals, takes up a prime corner site near the hopping Agile Rabbit (the location of fabulous live music on Thursday evenings). It’s a proper family-run operation, headed by Ning Ma and her mother. The rest of the family chip in; on our visit, Ma’s father was doing some of the cooking. Hailing from Beijing, the family ran a London supper club serving traditional north-eastern Chinese dishes before opening this café.
The menu is short, with around eight small dishes – three of which are the speciality of jiaozi (dumplings). Other dishes are either salads (sesame and seaweed; wood ear fungus, celery and boiled peanuts) or ‘street snacks’.
From the latter, chilli oil chicken had good flavour but was scarce on the chilli oil; the shredded meat was quite dry, a shame considering the source of the bird (Ginger Pig). Intriguing deep-fried ‘vegetable dough balls’ – a bit on the greasy side – resembling small round bhajias, also curried favour with their umami flavour and a curious note of cinnamon.
But what of the dumplings? We were seduced by the Facebook photos of fat, glistening dumplings with their bronzed, crisp bottoms, but were disappointed by the ones set down in front of us, which really needed an extra minute or two of pan-frying for that essential deep golden-crust.
Best of three styles of dumplings was the beef and carrot, which packed a savoury hit; dill and tofu was interestingly grassy, but low on tofu; pork and cabbage seemed to lack any seasoning at all, an anomaly, perhaps, considering the quality of the beef version.
Chinkiang black rice vinegar, provided in bottles on the table, lended the dumplings some much-needed moistness; a great potsticker dumpling should always carry the risk of deliciously scalding juices ejecting upon first bite, but these were disappointingly devoid of such danger.
Flavourwise, there is some great potential in Mama Lan; we like the sound of the hearty Chinese stews planned for cooler weather. But in terms of execution, there’s work to be done before we can wholeheartedly recommend anyone making a special journey. Brixton Village Market will undoubtedly lure voracious eaters anyway, but whether Mama Lan’s food is good enough to ensure repeat custom isn’t clear.
Mama Lan Brixton Village Market
Average User Rating
4 / 5
- 5 star:14
- 4 star:6
- 3 star:2
- 2 star:1
- 1 star:3
Dumplings are good, but the soups are just SO bland with tough chewy beef. Yuck. Tried twice thought they may be having an off day first time round....won't be back.
Really disappointed. I even gave this place 2 tries just incase they were having an off day the first time. It started off quite promising, the waitress that had been so rude the first time I went wasn't working, which I thought would be a massive bonus. Unfortunately the waitresses working this time were equally as rude - what a massive fail. Food was really disappointing both times. Such a shame, I really wanted this place to be good as it would be a welcome escape to all of the burger and meat oriented places in the village, which are very good but sometimes something a bit lighter is appreciated. Sad to give such a poor review.
Mama Lan's makes the best dumplings and noodle soups I've ever tasted - with really fresh, delicious flavours - somehow complex and subtle while still being hearty and filling. I really hope Time Out adjusts its review, not that the cafe seems to be suffering - it's one of the few places in Brixton Village market that's always busy, even when every where else is quiet, and that's because once you've eaten there, it's hard to think of anywhere else you'd rather go. I couldn't disagree more with Time Out and really hope readers won't be put off. I've been to all the places they rate higher in Brixton, and most are really very good, but Mama Lan's is not just the best Chinese restaurant for miles around, but - and this comes from someone who is food obsessed - it's also one of the best restaurants full stop!
Amazingly yummy dumplings and the best beef noodle soup I've ever tasted. Literally. This review is no longer accurate so don't let it put you off. I'm so going back.
Went with my partner and a friend for lunch on Thursday about 1:40pm. Partner ordered prawn dumplings; friend and I ordered the pork. Partners dumplings arrived about 15 mins later.. my friend and I waited, and waited.. and waited.. only to be told about 8 mins later that the cook had prepared all prawn dumplings for us by mistake and we would have to wait for our correct order to be cooked. By th e time our pork dumplings arrived another 12 minutes later my partner had finished eating his (his were already cold by that time and not as enjoyable)! Very poor service! Could at least have offered us the prawn dumplings instead so we didn't have to wait so long.. but no, we were told we just had to wait for ours to be made and cooked. Dumplings were AMAZING, best we'd ever eaten! Sadly, although we'd have liked to try their other offerings, we decided not to have anything else as we felt so let down by the poor service and long wait and didn't feel confident enough to order anything else from the menu. I know everything is prepared fresh to order but this is still no excuse. No offer of any extra (not even the prawn dumplings that had been prepared in error..) Shame, as our first experience of this otherwise wonderful eatery was tarnished by poor service and poor lack of judgement. Paid £20 (incl begrudged tip) for our dumplings and 1 cup of Oolong Tea. Great dumplings Mama Lan.. but we felt really let down by our first experience. 5 stars for the dumplings, sadly service takes it down to 3..
Dumplings are OK, although take an innordinate amount of time to be cooked and yet don't have that golden brown crispness you expect to see. Tiny seats inside too with so little room, the sauces are sometimes on the floor.
Freshness, tingly taste sensations of loveliness and a live food preparation show guarantees packed tables and friendly vibes. I just hope Mama Lan's increasing popularity doesn't erode its special atmosphere.
i'm secretly enjoying your ridiculous 2 star rating in the hope that it decreases the amount of people i will need to queue behind next time.
Went for lunch at this place and loved it. The tofu soup noodles were perfect for a cold winter's day with fresh ingredients and the perfect amount of spice on the broth. A great place for a quick bite.
Amazing food. The dumplings were perfectly addictive and the vegetable balls were divine. I think Time Out have been out voted here and need to add some more stars.
I love mama lan So excuse me time out but you ain't good food tasters Don't u go on about stuff that aint true....got it?
Don't normally write reviews but felt i had to after reading this one - not sure where this guy went. Had a great dinner there last night - the noodles and tender beef in particular were the best I've had and the pork dumplings were perfect. I'd recommend going down and making your own mind up.
I agree with you Beecee, I think Timeout needs to get their taste buds checked! I went there 2 weeks ago and coming from a Chinese background, I thought these were authentic as they can get. These hand made dumplings packed a punch and was full of flavour. The tables had vinegar and soy for dipping sauces which were an excellent compliment to the dishes. Even though the wait for the food took longer than expected...it was well worth the wait. You can see your dumplings being made fresh in front of your eyes! Can't get more authentic than that...
This review is so far off the delicious home cooked food we sampled today it's ridiculous. The dumplings were crisp, moist filled and packed with flavour. The shredded chicken was a moist delight with a real chilli punch, the crisp Paratha-like bread was perfect for soaking up the juice. Another star of the meal was the poached Peanut salad with a delicate star anise flavour. Timeout needs to review this again...possibly with a new reporter!
This place is a charming little find packed with bags of flavour and lovely smiles. Excellent value, too. We should be encouraging new businesses, not slamming them within hours of opening.
Weird. We went last weekend, the chicken was moist and the dumplings did squirt juice everywhere when we bit in. Either you were unlucky, or they've fixed the things you didn't like.
Not at all sporting Time Out reviewer person. Not cool. Just go and enjoy it. The food will speak for itself and the staff are lovely. Great lightbulbs too.
They'd only been open a couple of days when TimeOut reviewed there - give them a chance, TimeOut! Went here last week and thought it was fantastic - friendly staff and great dumplings.
I've just been and have to say your review didn't reflect my experience. I thought the pork and cabbage dumplings were lovely and good value with just enough ginger to brighten the flavours nicely. I also enjoyed the seaweed and toasted sesame, a new experience for me having been brought up on the misleading-named crispy fried seaweed (cabbage in reality). I suggest you go back and try it again now that it's been running longer than the 2 days you clearly allowed before reviewing it.
Wow – pretty savage review. How long would they have been open for? Loving the tables stacked outside and are those paint cans on the floor?! Seems contradictory but the hubby and I went for lunch last Saturday and thought the food was really good. The pork and beef dumplings were both very tasty and we thought pretty well made – crispy base and moist enough filling. I heard the next table gushing how they were close to Din Tai Fung’s legendary dumplings, I won’t go as far as that but then again DTF’s has star so wouldn’t be comparing like for like in any case. Didn’t try the chicken or vegetable balls but the slow cooked beef was probably the best dish we had. Good quality beef and the vinaigrette thing set the whole dish off. Service was pitched perfect, Ling, I’m guessing Mama Lan’s daughter was delightful and has a wicked laugh. They seemed busy enough on the weekend. Hopefully they’ve sorted their teething problems out and find some sort of consistency (clearly we had a different experiences) because I think it going to be a great little local café.