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Mourad Mazouz

12 May 2005
Mourad Mazouz

Overall ranking: 84

Restaurateurs ranking: 27

Snapshot

Mourad Mazouz is the French-Algerian restaurateur who brought the food, sounds and art of North Africa to London with his stylish Momo and its two spin-offs.

His controversial Sketch has proved to be one of London's most unusual and expensive restaurants. It's a vast, £10m extravaganza of avant garde design and art that showcases the highly individual cuisine of three Michelin-starred Parisian chef, Pierre Gagnaire.

Career guide

Mazouz was born in 1962 into a Berber family in Algeria but went to live with his mother in Paris at the age of 15. After travelling the world, he opened the bijou Au Bascou in Paris, which won a Bistro of the Year award.

He returned to his North African roots two years later with the hip and lively 404 Restaurant Familial in Paris, which clinched his reputation in the early nineties as one of France's hottest restaurateurs.

Mazouz then opened the North African-themed Momo in London's Heddon Street in April 1997, adding the Mô tea room and antiques bazaar in September 1999 and a mini-Momo in Selfridges in October 2003.

What we think

Mazouz likes to combine the pleasures of food, art and music in his restaurants. The sparse décor at 404 in Paris was actually down to lack of time but its "daring, minimalist style" spawned rave reviews. It served traditional cuisine from Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria in a North African setting of low tables and chairs to a soundtrack of Arabic and World music.

This formula proved equally popular in London. Momo was an instant hit with celebrities, diners and critics and soon generated two spin-offs.

Sketch - which spreads across four floors in the listed Christian Dior building that Mazouz acquired in 1999 - marked a radical departure.

For a start, it serves up the modern Continental/British creations of Paris superchef Pierre Gagnaire, who drafted in many of his own kitchen brigade past and present.

The complex comprises a fine dining restaurant, a gastro-brasserie that doubles as a video art gallery by day, a tearoom and patisserie, and two bars.

Sketch opened seven months late and £5m over budget in a blaze of publicity that spanned the ecstatic to the appalled. The design was attacked as a vulgar "camp wonderland" and the food as "pretentious tosh". The restaurant won the dubious reputation as the most prohibitively overpriced venue in London.

However, attitudes have mellowed as the original shock faded and the restaurant added a more affordable three-course menu for £35. Sketch won four AA rosettes, gained its first Michelin star this January, and was rated 17/20 in French guide Gault Millau's first round-up of London restaurants (putting it one point ahead of Gordon Ramsay).

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