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Meet restaurateur Mourad Mazouz

The man behind Sketch, MOMO and the Mo Café talks lamb’s brains, motorhomes and the Muzungu Sisters

Posted: 4 November 2011
by Helen McKay-Ferguson

Cast iron lamps hang from the ceiling effusing a warming glow while the low, cushioned seating invites you to settle down, sip a glass of Moroccan tea – poured with a flourish from great height – and pluck a pastry from a teetering cake stand. This is the Mo Café, a secluded Aladdin’s cave, hidden away behind Regent Street. Here, treasures come not just in the form of exquisitely presented tea and cakes. Itinerant style queens the Muzungu Sisters have set up their pop-up shop for the festive season, selling a handpicked selection of robes, jewellery, scarves and other trinkets. And if the Mo Café beckons comparison with the cave of ancient legend, then restaurateur Mourad Mazouz is surely the genie weaving the magic together. He shared with us his inspirations…

I grew up in Algeria, in a small town called Sidi Aich – my background is Berber. The area where I grew up is very beautiful and remote, surrounded by mountains.

My children’s names reflect their Berber heritage. I have two sons, Lounes, 21, and Ilyas, six, whose names are both Berber. My daughter Louize, who is two, has a European name but we decided to spell it with a ‘z’ to give it a Berber twist.

Couscous is for Algerians what pasta is for Italians. We eat it with everything. As a child, I loved eating tripe, and lamb’s brains – with the head served on the plate and the tongue hanging out.

I always do everything by instinct. I had a proposal to open a new restaurant in Beirut. I love the city, it was a beautiful, sunny day, so I said ‘yes’.

I took a road trip in a motorhome across Canada with Lounes and Ilyas. As a restaurateur, it is hard for me to be there all the time. But when I am with my children, I’m there fully.

People find it strange when I say I live in my wife’s house in St John’s Wood. But it is her house, she bought it. I have one room in it, with my bed, my desk, my books – like a student’s room.

My style is beyond minimalist. In my flat in Beirut, everything is stripped down to the bare essentials. I don’t see the point in having lots of things.

The island of Formentera off the coast of Spain is one of my favourite places in the world. It’s the only place in Europe that I’ve found like it. It’s very chilled and laidback, nobody judges you. 

I was shocked when I arrived in England and found out how huge Christmas is. As a child, my family didn’t celebrate Christmas, although as Algeria is a former French colony, we had holidays from school. 

Sauerkraut is what we usually eat on Christmas Day. We spend the holidays in Beirut and my wife’s mother cooks. She is Jewish, but not very strict – we have our sauerkraut with sausages.

The Muzungu Sisters are full of life and energy. When they approached me about hosting their pop-up shop, I said 'yes' immediately. It is a good match.

The Muzungu Sisters pop-up is now open 10am–6.30pm (Mon–Sat) at Mo Cafe, 25-27 Heddon Street W1B 4BH.
For further details, visit the Muzungu Sisters website.

Read Junior's review of the Muzungu Sisters pop-up shop at Mo Café

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Mourad Mazouz, Muzungu Sisters, restaurant, food, Christmas, pop-up shop, restaurateur, Mo Cafe, Sketch, MOMO

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