I often find that restaurants around popular attractions are so disappointing; even in a city with as much variety as London, you can be sure that crowded areas are full of chain restaurants or tourist traps. I’m not sure if it’s due to the rental prices meaning small independent cafes simply can’t get a look in, or whether they’d rather be based somewhere with more of a neighbourhood vibe, but either way it seems to be pretty hard to find a decent restaurant near some of London’s most-visited attractions and until recently I found that the O2 was no different. Surrounded by chain restaurants, I was thrilled to find an absolute gem just round the corner, and despite (naturally!) loving their breakfast menu, I noticed that they had a great all-day menu too.
Set in an absolutely gorgeous space with floor-to-ceiling windows, Mama Fuego is a sister restaurant to Abuelo, one of my favourite coffee spots in Covent Garden. Thankfully, it’s far bigger, but with a similarly stunning architectural design; there’s an open plan kitchen, gorgeous artwork and beautiful wooden tables, some of which communal benches.
Mama Fuego was born out of a shared heritage of culture in South America and Australia; combining Australian food styling with Latin American flavours, and Australian-technique specialty coffee with Latin American beans. The team behind the restaurant own cafes in both Sydney and Melbourne, and were responsible for developing the now world-famous babycinno before beginning their journey in London.
I absolutely love their menu; of course they have the classic avocado toast (which I think is one of the best ways to judge quality given its simplicity!) but their other dishes are where they really shine through. They have a wonderful sautéed wild mushroom dish which comes with truffle butter, melted cheese and a fried egg on brioche toast; I can’t think of many more delicious items to add to a single dish! Their version of baked eggs is a ‘Sriracha bloody mary’ one with goats cheese and spinach or chorizo to pack in extra flavour!
Their sweet options are brilliant too – I loved the buttermilk charcoal waffles which came with dulce de leche, clotted cream and caramelised pears. The waffle itself was beautifully soft, though I was lightly disappointed that one portion only equates to half a waffle – great if, like me, you like to order multiple dishes, but given the price (£12.50) I’d have expected more. The ricotta hotcakes, in contrast, were a similar price yet a far more generous portion – strangely mine were thin and crepe-like, but I’ve seen others which were the thick, fluffy style pancakes I’d have expected, and having spoken to the team since, I believe that’s how they are usually served. Finally, there’s a blackberry mascarpone toast which is served with ginger biscuit crumble and pistachios.. it may be simple but it’s absolutely delicious and definitely not one to be missed.
Everyone knows a good brunch is incomplete without dessert, and if all of the sweet options on the menu still aren’t enough then they have a great selection of bakes and pastries on the counter too – I went for a little blueberry cake, a wonderfully chewy dark chocolate, pecan and sea salt cookie and one of their alfajores (for anyone who isn’t familiar with them, they’re like lovely shortbread biscuits stuffed with dulce de leche spread).
Of course, great food and great coffee are of paramount importance when looking for a brunch spot, but I think atmosphere and interiors are incredibly important too. The downstairs area is flooded with natural light, and features a variety of collectors’ pieces of mid-century furniture as well as their own bespoke joinery made from Australian timber (Tasmanian Blackwood). There are four other distinct areas within the restaurant too, including a cosy ‘sunken bar’, an open bakery on the second floor mezzanine level and plenty of booths and smaller spaces which would be perfect for groups of friends or a special-occasion brunch.
Overall it’s a great brunch spot; undoubtedly one of the best I’ve found in the area and I’d even travel out of central to go there. Some of the dishes are a little on the pricey side given the portion size, but other than that it’s hard to find fault with it.