Thai-style crab Benedict, short-rib massaman curry and the best bacon roll you've ever had - meet Mamasan
What do you get when you find a Scotsman who loves Liverpool, with a penchant for Southeast Asian cuisine? You get Brad Stevens, seasoned food & drink entrepreneur who’s about to unleash his take on experiential dining into the city. OK, we need to work on our punchlines but we aren’t kidding when we say the new Mamasan bar and restaurant set to open on College Street is no laughing matter. This lot does not mess about when it comes to serving up style and substance in equal abundance.
We crack coconuts and take out the flesh to make our own coconut cream. We don’t just open up a can of coconut milk
Ahead of the planned opening in May, we had a chinwag with Brad Stevens, brains behind Mamasan - as well as other successful brands: Bar Soba and Pizza Punks, on taking the humble bacon butty to the next level with a Southeast Asian brunch, his theatrical cocktail menu, and “putting the hospitality back into the hospitality industry”.
Brad Stevens: "We love Liverpool. I’ve spent a lot of time in Liverpool and I love the vibrancy of the city; I love the culture. We’re based up in Glasgow, where we opened the first restaurant and I think there's a lot of similarities between the people of Glasgow the people of Liverpool. We’re hoping the people in Liverpool react to the restaurant in the same way the Glaswegians did - when it opened, it just went on fire. It was phenomenal."
How did you find your Liverpool venue?
BS: "I'd been looking around Liverpool for a long time but when I walked into this building, I just knew it had the Mamasan stamp all over it. It’s split over three levels; you’ve got the ground floor and the front of the restaurant, which opens up into an alfresco terrace. Then you’ve got a mezzanine level which leads up to the first floor where we’ve also got a rooftop bar."
What makes the Mamasan experience unique?
BS: "We don’t cut any corners. All our dishes are inspired by authentic flavours from Southeast Asia, so that’s Taiwan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan, parts of China and even some parts of southern India. We take traditional dishes from these areas and elevate them with great British produce, presented in a way it's possibly never been seen before.
"When you come into Mamasan, the description of the dish might be fairly simple but the complexity, texture and depth of flavours are what will take you to another place. You eat and drink with your eyes before anything else though so we try to create an environment that looks stunning but is still welcoming and comfortable. Our mission is to put hospitality back into the hospitality business. We want coming to Mamasan to feel like going to a friend’s house. It might look exclusive but we’re going for inclusive exclusivity.
"We want to create theatre within everything our guests eat and drink but then also have structure and real balance of flavour behind that. We want to do the whole gambit, not just put a show on with nothing to back it up."
What is your signature dish?
BS: "Probably our Massaman curry, which is a traditional Thai dish. It’s about real depth of flavour and really sums up what we’re all about. We make the curry paste from scratch and we crack coconuts and take out the flesh to make our own coconut cream. We don’t just open up a can of coconut milk like many UK Thai restaurants do. In this dish, we use short rib of beef which we smoke over coals and coconut husks to add to the curry with some bone marrow. Our menus involve hours and hours of preparation. We want to serve elevated food that doesn’t pull people’s pants down in terms of price."
Tell us about your "southeast Asian brunch"
BS: "A lot of different things. We’ve got dishes in there like a Southeast Asian version of a bacon butty. We make fresh rotis in the morning and serve them up with streaky bacon and hung yoghurt (a bit like cream cheese), burnt chilli jam and fresh herbs - all made on-site. It’ll be the best bacon roll you’ve ever had! We’re building a crab cake Benedict with Thai smashed avocado and a poached egg but in the Hollandaise, we’re adding a tiny bit of red curry paste and burnt chilli. We’ve also got a Nasi Goreng, which is a rice dish with house-smoked pork belly, prawns and a fried egg, which is a traditional breakfast in Indonesia."
We're standing at the bar - what signature cocktail should we order and why?
BS: "We’re working on something just now with a working name of Mama Rose Lee. It will be a cocktail with a bubble on top of it and when you burst that bubble, on the foam of the cocktail, will be a printed fortune. So that’s the fun element but after that, the drink’s got to be great as well so we’re infusing our own spirits and making our own syrups. We also do a cocktail called Smoked Popcorn, which includes a house-charred sweetcorn infused rum. That’s then served with a bit of lime to give it balance and a handmade sweetcorn syrup for sweetness. We then use a smoking gun to infuse vanilla smoke into the drink before serving it with a bit of popcorn on the side."
What have you got planned for 2021?
BS: "We’ll probably be bringing our Veuve Clicquot Sunday Brunch down from Glasgow to Liverpool, which is a tasting menu with half a bottle of champagne. There’ll be music and a games element with a sort of upmarket bingo. We’ll also be launching our "One Night In…" monthly events, focusing on different areas of Southeast Asia, where you’ll be able to buy a ticket and come along to get a tasting menu inspired by that specific place."
Mamasan 24 College Lane, L1 3DS - opens 21 May