photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
London has a special knack of turning greyness into something engaging. On one end of the spectrum you’ve got the Barbican Estate—a breathtaking brutalist complex—and on the other, you’ve got Brent Cross—a nostalgic eyesore with a ferris wheel next to the North Circular. And, in Mama’s Kubo, the Finchley Road has a vivid injection of life. The cosy Filipino restaurant is a serene oasis that mixes warm service, big groups, and enlivening vinegary punches from its pork belly adobo. Put simply, it’s a Great Little Place on one of London’s most reliably dismal A-roads.
Hectic location aside, Mama’s Kubo is a restaurant that’s very easy to get comfortable in. There are some banquet-sized tables that are perfect for big groups who are planning on tearing apart crispy pata (pork knuckle), alongside pancit, rice, and the like. Plus plenty of twos and a cushion-covered banquette, which are perfect for a low-key date night. Combined with the chummy service, it makes for a restaurant you can be as swift or as lazy as you like in. You’ll feel particularly smug when it’s hammering down outside, cars are flying past, and you’re digging into a steaming hot pile of pancit palabok—a smoky, stir-fried noodle dish of seafood, eggs, and pork crackling.
The menu—split between small plates, noodles, stir-fries, stews, kare kare, and more—favours numbers. Especially as there are five-ish dishes on the specials board as well. Look out for longganisa, a smoky and garlicky homemade sausage. It’s a rarity but, if the wind is blowing the correct direction and the chef’s lottery numbers have come in, then you might see it up there. If so, order it. Similarly, get the crispy pata if it’s on. It’s a giant pork knuckle (that gives Fred Flintstone energy) with impeccable crackling, that comes with sawsawan, a salty and vinegary dipping sauce, to cut through. The best dishes at Mama’s Kubo, like the adobo or the pata, have a mix of intense salty and sour Filipino flavours. They’re the kind of dishes that can turn any grey day on its head.
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Pork Belly Adobo
Chunks of tender pork belly, cloves of golden garlic, and a sauce with whacks of vinegar that’s laced with soy. This is a tasty and pungent bowl of adobo. The little potatoes and caramelised onion is very welcome as well.
If you’re a fan of steaming piles of noodles fresh from the wok, then you’ll like these thin egg noodles. The best thing about them is the mix of smoky flavour and seafood. There’s crispy squid, juicy prawns, soft-boiled egg slices, and crispy pork crackling broken up and sprinkled on top. It’s a great combination.
This hunking knuckle of pork isn’t one for the faint hearted, but if you’re particularly carnivorous then you’ll be very happy. It’s salty and almost hazardous to your molars, such is the excellent crunch on the crackling. The sawsawan dipping sauce—a mix of soy, vinegar, and chilli—perfectly cuts through the rich fat and meat.
A mix of plantain and jackfruit in a spring roll wrapper. It’s golden, it’s sweet, it’s fried, and it’s served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.