Listed by Trip Advisor as a ‘Centre of Excellence’ for 2014, Mosob has been serving up traditional Eritrean dishes to a West London audience for more than 10 years. Taking advantage of a break in the London rain this summer, Africa Fashion decided to see what all the fuss was about.
According to the family that owns Mosob, the name refers to a kind of woven table where people would gather to eat together – and the welcome we received was certainly warm. Booking before 7pm should not be necessary, but why take a chance. The team has done a great job with the web site. We booked online and received a confirmation quickly.
Inside, you can see how this might once have been a pub, but following two refits (2004 and 2007), it now looks more like a small part of Eritrea has been transported to the UK. The restaurant divides into more of a cafe at the front and, where we were sat, a more traditional East African dining room at the back.
The visual and audio experience of entering Mosob is transformational – you really do step into another world.
The seating and table arrangement (layout and height) look great, but are in fact a little awkward to use and we can tell you that you’re unlikely to be lounging around after you eat. Only the comfort of the seating drops the decor score to 7. Hygiene from the seating area all the way to the bathrooms was good and gets an 8.
Although the welcome was warm, it took a while to get served, but our waitress apologised and, with a smile, blamed her brother (well played – truly a family run operation!). After that, service was swift, friendly and on point, hence the high score of 8.
We opted for a Mosob cocktail and African beer (Tusker) to keep the experience as unique as possible, but we can report that Mosob has a fully stocked bar and can cater for any taste. We asked for a spread of traditional dishes and we were not disappointed.
Much of the food seems based around Injera (bread) and Wat (stew). Injera, for the uninitiated, is like a large, moist pancake that has only been cooked on one side.
Our starter involved various injera being coated with a sauce, rolled, cut into sections and then served with yoghurt and spicy dips. Specifically, Timtimo (lentil sauce garnished with chilli), Hamli (spinach, garlic and olive oil) as well as halved falefals [sic].
Although it has flavour, the soft, moist texture of the bread is not to our taste. There was nothing wrong with it, but for the whole ‘bread plus dip’ kind of food, we prefer the kind of crunch/contrast you get from a poppadom or toasted pitta.
The main course was a selection of dishes served on two large injera breads. With this kind of cuisine, it is normal to use the ‘plate’ as your eating tool and to consume the dishes plus injera at the same time.
At first glance, the food appeared Mexican, but the similarities stop at the visual level.
Zigni (richly spiced lamb stew), Derho Quluwa (cubed chicken with onions and peppers), Alicha Ahmelti (cabbage, carrots, onions and split beans) and Timto (lentils).
While there’s no arguing that this cuisine delivers a colourful palate, the actual flavours are quite ‘one dimensional’. While Chinese or Indian food includes plenty of dishes where there is a ‘surprise’ or ‘mis-direction’ for your taste buds, the ‘stew’ style of cooking means that the flavours tend to blend. We give Mosob a 4 here, but that wouldn’t put off someone who loves this cuisine – lack of variety doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
Overall, everything about this restaurant delivers the same message: Appealing, but at the same time slightly disappointing. For an evening out, it is certainly an experience and unlike anything we’ve tried in London before. The welcome is warm, the décor impressive and the staff are very friendly. The seating and food should be the real stars, but they just didn’t do it for us. For such simple food, outside the city centre, we feel the bill was too high and give them a 5.
When the bill is going to be around £70 for 2 people, then you would like to come away talking about more than the art and location. The experience and service push the scores up – but are balanced by the variety and value. Overall, Mosob gets a 6.