Judging in the UK’s Free From Eating Out Awards: Mommi Restaurant

The shortlist in the UK’s annual Free From Food Awards for 2017 has been released! The winners will be announced on 21st November at the Free From Matters Live event. What makes these awards special is that they’re open to entrants from all over the UK (not just London focused) and they feature restaurants catering to all allergens, not just gluten free. However, what’s impressive about these awards is the breadth of restaurant types who have entered; from a coffee shop in a small Scottish village or fish and chip shops by the sea to large chains offering free from menus, there’s even a restaurant in a museum on the shortlist!

This year I was honoured to be involved the Free From Eating Out Awards as a judge. There are several steps within the judging process for the Awards, with in-person judging taking place for the shortlisted entrants. What can be more exciting than a free from secret squirrel mission? I was allocated…..drum roll please…..Mommi as the restaurant to judge in person. Mommi is entered in to the Focus On Gluten, a new category within this year’s awards. Mommi offers a fusion of Peruvian and Japanese flavours within the dishes in its menu. Having travelled to both Peru and Japan, I was pretty excited to undertake this particular secret mission.

Mommi is located in Clapham, south west London. I’ve been drooling for some time over the many pictures I’ve seen on Instagram from fellow gluten free crew who’ve eaten at Mommi yet this was my first dining experience there.

Mommi also holds the gluten free restaurant accreditation status from Coeliac UK.

The table reservation process at Mommi
Part of the role as a judge is to visit each restaurant incognito and later provide a report of the whole dining experience as well as testing whether the protocols they described in their entry form were indeed followed for the incognito judge.

One of the interesting things I’ve learnt as a judge at the Free From Eating Out Awards is the lengths which some restaurants go to in order to record the allergies / intolerances of their diners. It’s very comforting to discover that (some) restaurants really do have robust and electronic processes in place around this.

When I made the reservation I advised that I was allergic to a couple of types of nut and I was told this would be noted on my reservation.

The welcome at Mommi
Having made the table booking, I was particularly interested to test their reservation system. Would the booking system / front desk have retained a note that I was coeliac and additionally am allergic to a couple of types of nut?

Upon arrival, the front of house presented us with a laminated allergy list and immediate acknowledgement of my nut allergy without me even mentioning it. The entire menu at Mommi is gluten free so this was not an issue. I was impressed with this approach as it demonstrated their system was working for those with allergies / intolerances. In addition, our waitress and everyone who came to our table on the night was aware of my nut allergy. This showed great communication between the team at Mommi and I was comforted they had a good system for managing other allergies in place.

The food at Mommi
Mommi offers the choice of either a set meal or the option to choose a variety of different dishes. The idea is that dishes are to share within your dining party. We opted for the Fuji set menu at £24.50 each (based on 2 sharing). Why? Although each of the six dishes in the set meal (3 fish, 2 meat, 1 veg) looked very appetising, as a gluten free diner there was one particular dish which immediately sprung out.

Nikkei tempura fish and chips, with wasabi mayo and cassava fries

adventures of a gluten free globetrekker Judging in the UK's Free From Eating Out Awards: Mommi Restaurant Gluten Free Travel UK

This dish is reason alone to come to Mommi. Light and crunchy tempura batter and a wasabi mayo so deliciously hot and creamy I think we scooped out every last morsel from the dish.

Mr D was particularly impressed with the incredibly tender braised sticky short rib of beef which came served atop a lime flavoured quinoa. Like the use of cassava fries in place of potato in the dish above, I loved this interesting combination of beef with quinoa. It worked really well and the sauce was full of deep, rich  flavours.

adventures of a gluten free globetrekker Judging in the UK's Free From Eating Out Awards: Mommi Restaurant Gluten Free Travel UK

I thought the fish course was almost too pretty to eat. Yakitori salmon, lime butter sauce, black sesame seeds and coriander cress.

adventures of a gluten free globetrekker Judging in the UK's Free From Eating Out Awards: Mommi Restaurant Gluten Free Travel UK

Lamb isn’t always the prettiest of dishes but doesn’t this look appetising? Lamb cutlets yakitori, green tea miso. aji lomo, salsa ocapa.

adventures of a gluten free globetrekker Judging in the UK's Free From Eating Out Awards: Mommi Restaurant Gluten Free Travel UK

The vegetable dish for me, served without hazelnuts.

adventures of a gluten free globetrekker Judging in the UK's Free From Eating Out Awards: Mommi Restaurant Gluten Free Travel UK

For dessert, I opted for the Peruvian chocolate mousse, toffee popcorn and crispy quinoa. This was entirely for judging research purposes (honest!) because by this point I was so full up.

adventures of a gluten free globetrekker Judging in the UK's Free From Eating Out Awards: Mommi Restaurant Gluten Free Travel UK    adventures of a gluten free globetrekker Judging in the UK's Free From Eating Out Awards: Mommi Restaurant Gluten Free Travel UK

But it was sensational – and I say this as someone who normally skips sweet puddings altogether or in favour of cheese. The textures and flavours in this dish really worked.

But what about the drinks?
The Mommi drinks menu offers some excellent cocktails and a few interesting south American wines. It does feature a gluten free beer, Brew Dog but this is one area I’d like to see them expand to include additional gluten free lagers. Perhaps Antiplano, made from quinoa grown in Bolivia but brewed in France could be an appropriate addition (it’s also a lovely beer).

Any areas for improvement?

Looking back on the overall experience, one piece of feedback I would give is that Mommi can really make more of their Coeliac UK gluten free accreditation status. They have not been set up to be a 100% gluten free restaurant but their menu is completely gluten free. When I called to make the reservation and advised that I was coeliac, I would’ve liked them to have explained in more detail about the fact their menu was entirely gluten free. Or even just to have said “being coeliac is no problem; our food menu is entirely gluten free and we hold the Coeliac UK accreditation status” would have sufficed. Of course, my experience was based on one call on one day but I do think they can make more of their gluten free credentials to those for whom it’s important.

Would I recommend Mommi to the gluten free (and free from) diner?
I absolutely loved my meal at Mommi. Truly, I don’t know any other restaurant in the UK which is offering these combinations of exciting flavours involving interesting, high quality ingredients AND an entirely gluten free menu. The cocktails are pretty epic too! I wholeheartedly recommend eating at Mommi.

adventures of a gluten free globetrekker Judging in the UK's Free From Eating Out Awards: Mommi Restaurant Gluten Free Travel UK

Because dining a Mommi for a coeliac really is no drama, llama!

For more information on how the Free From Eating Out Awards are judged, please click here.

If you are looking for great places to eat out in the UK (and particularly if you are a visitor to our shores) I would highly recommend that you bookmark this shortlist for great free from restaurants all over the UK.

The categories in the Free From Food Awards are:
• Crème de la Crème
• Focus on gluten
• Cafés, coffee shops, tea rooms
• Fish and Chip shops
• Pub Restaurants
• Indendent Restaurants
• Restaurant Chains
• B&Bs and guest houses
• Food manufactured for food service

Are your favourite restaurants in the UK represented in the shortlist? If not, who would you like to add? 

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adventures of a gluten free globetrekker Judging in the UK's Free From Eating Out Awards: Mommi Restaurant Gluten Free Travel UK