If you ask me where my favourite breakfast spot in Hong Kong is, I wouldn’t hesitate to answer: Catch in Kennedy Town. This place started as a tiny restaurant, before expanding into the next-door space. Now, going back to his roots, owner Alex Malouf, has replaced the original Catch space with Mama Malouf, a cosy Lebanese restaurant that opened a month or so ago.
If you’re into your food, the name ‘Malouf’ might ring a few bells. Alex’s uncle is the famous chef Greg Malouf, known for being the pioneer of Middle Eastern cuisine in Australia and beyond. Alex’s mother is also a chef, so Alex grew up working in his mother’s restaurant in Melbourne, surrounded by delicious Lebanese cuisine. Mama Malouf, as you may guess from the name, is therefore inspired by Alex’s mother. Apparently the idea came about when she was visiting her son – Alex arranged a pop-up Lebanese dinner at Catch and instantly filled both sides of the restaurant!
The space has been completely transformed since its Catch days, now with low, wooden tables and chairs, colourful cushions, green tiles and a wall full of cookbooks, setting the scene for a casual, cosy meal amongst friends.
We began, as any Lebanese meal should, with a selection of dips – or Mama’s Mezza in this case – hummus, babaganoush, and cucumber and tarragon labne, served with marinated olives and pickles, and an endless supply of warm pitta bread. The dips were faultless and dangerously addictive when we knew this was just a teaser for what was to come.
As Alex presented us with Teta’s tabbouleh, he proclaimed that if we didn’t think this was the best tabbouleh in Hong Kong, it was on the house. Let’s just say, we were happy to pay for it! The flavours were fresh, light and nicely complemented the other mezze.
The traditional falafel that followed was beautiful – not just the colourful presentation, but the crumbly, melt in the mouth texture, the creaminess of the tahini and the sharp contrast of the pickled turnips all came together to make these utterly delicious.
I sometimes think quail is a little too fiddly and not worth the effort for the amount of meat you get. Mama Malouf’s grilled quail with chorizo, quinoa, figs and chickpeas, however, was more than worth the effort – not that there was much effort involved, as the perfectly tender bird slid easily off the bone. The flavours melded together amazingly and we were literally fighting over the last chickpea! As I mentioned to Alex on the night, a little more chorizo wouldn’t have gone amiss, but I was possibly (or even probably) just being a little greedy!
The split gulf prawns with green chermoula were cooked to a perfect tenderness and had a satisfyingly pungent spiced lemony flavour.
Without a doubt the favourite of the night was the slow-cooked lamb shoulder with baharat spices, shallots, pumpkin and faro. Not only was the lamb wonderfully tender to the bite, but it was so utterly flavoursome too.
For dessert, we loved the “baklava sandwich”, which was inspired by the traditional Lebanese pastries, but larger, stuffed with salted caramel ice cream.
The muhallabieh, a traditional Lebanese milk pudding, however, didn’t go down well at all. To me, it kind of tasted like dirty water. Seeing that we weren’t too fond of it, Alex tried some and told us that’s exactly what it’s supposed to taste like, but they were still working on the consistency. Perhaps it’s an acquired taste then!
Mama Malouf has now also started serving weekend brunch, which I think makes it the first HK restaurant where you can get a good Lebanese brunch – a definite gap in the market nicely filled! The shakshuka with pulled lamb was hearty and delicious, whilst Mama’s scrambled eggs, also with spiced lamb, was an entirely new, surprising and tasty experience.
Dishes are mostly under $150 and service is personal and friendly, much like its next door neighbour, Catch. There are also some excellent and reasonably priced Lebanese wines on the menu that will take you quite by surprise. Mama Malouf is a welcome addition to Kennedy Town, both for a cosy and hearty dinner, or an exciting and exotic brunch. Now it’ll just be hard to choose between going to Catch or Mama Malouf for breakfast!
93 Catchick Street
Tel: +852 2817 3828