Lakaz Maman Mauritian Street Kitchen, Southampton

From the mind of a MasterChef winner comes this little piece of African authenticity, lodged right in the heart of Southampton’s Bedford Place…

Many in my closer circle may be aware I don’t really have a lot of time for cooking shows like MasterChef. The style of cooking, the presentation, the tiny portions; it goes against most of what I personally look for when I want to see someone cooking on TV. On the rare occasion I have caught an episode, I have never thought to myself, ‘Ooh that looks great, I’m really hungry now!’

With this in mind, my latest visit to Southampton, to have lunch with my friend and fellow journalism student Lina Edvardsson Ceder, her recommendation of Lakaz Maman Mauritian Street Kitchen, established by 2012 MasterChef winner Shelina Permalloo, was taken with the slightest iota of scepticism. I was massively more interested in the cuisine. Mauritian food (African food in general, actually) is something I have hitherto been totally ignorant of, and so therefore it makes its début on this blog now.

Lakaz Maman (the Mauritian for “Mum’s House”) follows suit with many of the other restaurants along that parade in Bedford Place and is laid out in a way not unlike that of a café. They don’t serve alcohol there, but you are encouraged to bring your own should you wish, at a perfectly reasonable £5 corkage fee. Lina is now pescatarian, and I was in the mood for seafood anyway, so we brought a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc to accompany the meal.

Rougaille with Octopus, served with yellow rice

In doing my homework for this review, as is often my habit, despite the enormous and fantastic eclectic array of dishes on offer, I was immediately arrested by Rougaille: essentially a tomato-based sauce enriched with garlic, thyme and chilli, to which you add one of  a wide selection, from something as simple as Butterbeans, to King Prawns, to Braised Mutton. But I saw Octopus on offer and I just could not resist it (see pictured).

House Cari with Red Snapper, served with yellow rice

Lina was more attracted to one of the house’s Creole curries, called a Cari, which she requested to be made with Red Snapper (see pictured).

So far, so good; the service is very friendly and quite quick — let’s have a look at the portion sizes. The Octopus Rougaille is one of the more pricey options from the selection, at £11.95. Having seen the dish in front of me, I was wondering if I had made the right decision. Well, you know what they say about books and covers. The tomato sauce is so rich, and it is brimming with octopus pieces. With such a rare ingredient, one expects chefs to be quite frugal. The addition of the rice (or a rôti, should you prefer) helps bring substance to the dish, but overall, despite its size, it was very filling.

Pineapple with Sugar and Spice, served with Mango Sorbet

Not so filling as that we would snub a dessert. This is where the service lost a couple of points, unfortunately. To Lina’s Roasted Pineapple with Sugar and Spice (see pictured), I had opted for a Salted Caramel Chocolate Brownie — primarily because the menu recommended it for chocolate-lovers, but also because the salted caramel at Lakaz Maman is reportedly famous.

Sticky Mauritian Ginger Cake, served with Chocolate Ice Cream

I was instead presented with a Sticky Mauritian Ginger Cake with my choice of some chocolate ice cream (see pictured). If I am honest, due to the salted caramel sauce drizzled over it, I decided not to raise the issue. Again, a little on the small side, but after how surprisingly substantial the main was, I think that was a blessing in disguise. The salted caramel complimented the ginger perfectly (it should go without saying what it did to the ice cream).

Mignardises – Pineapple on mint sugar

And finally, while some places will give you an amuse-bouche, others will give you a little palate-cleanser for the end of the meal. I have searched high and low for the official culinary name for such a thing – I have come up with both Lagniappe, or the much-more refined-sounding Mignardises, which is what we’ll call it. Our Mignardises came in the form of a couple of chunks of pineapple on a cocktail stick, sitting in a bed of what can only be described as slightly minty sugar. Consider our palates cleansed.

It is a rare thing indeed for me to enjoy a review meal at a restaurant so much that I will admit to wanting to go back. Lakaz Maman falls into that category though. Lina and I managed that two-course meal with the corkage charge included for just under £20 each. It is definitely worth a go if you want to broaden your horizons into exotic cuisine.