Expect people to be enjoying scoops of Filipino dirty ice cream as they take in London’s sights and sounds. Mamasons’ prime location in Chinatown places the Filipino establishment right smack at the heart of London’s most popular tourist attractions such as Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery, and West End, among others. Photo courtesy of Mamasons
31 August 2018 LONDON—Filipino “dirty” ice cream makes its debut at the heart of Central London as Mamasons Dirty Ice Cream is set to open in London’s Chinatown this September 15.
“The opening of our new flagship store in Chinatown London is a huge step for the Philippines because Filipino food is currently under-represented as an Asian food culture here in London,” said Mae Magnaloc, one of the Mamasons’ founders. “We want Filipinos to feel proud of our flavours and our cuisine and to feel inspired to innovate it further to promote our food in the West. We believe that food is a gateway for culture and as a Filipino brand we have a great responsibility to promote our culture through any way possible. We want people to be curiously excited about Filipino food, so that they will want to taste it and fall in love with our cuisine.”
Mamasons Dirty Ice Cream, Europe’s first and only Filipino ice cream parlour, completes Chinatown’s Asian dessert scene and will be the first Filipino food establishment to break into London’s foodie hotbed after being sought out by Shaftesbury PLC to complete the carefully curated row of restaurants in Chinatown London’s latest development, Central Cross. Shafestbury PLC owns swathes of properties across many of London’s trendsetting neighbourhoods including Carnaby Street and Soho. Shaftesbury PLC is considered by many as the “king makers” in London’s food scene.
“Since Filipino food (and especially Filipino desserts) is a niche in London, we already stood out. Word about us spread quickly and led to the team at Shaftesbury finding us, just as we were looking for opportunities to expand,” said Mamasons founder, Omar Shah. It was Omar’s brief trip to the Philippines that inspired the concept of Mamasons. He returned to London with a newfound passion for Philippine cuisine, rolled up his sleeves, and decided he would make it his mission to tickle London’s taste buds for Filipino food one dish at a time.
Mamasons’ claim to fame is its unique line of dirty ice cream flavours such as ube, milo, black buko (coconut with activated charcoal), guyabano, and calamansi, which harken back to what is popularly known in the Philippines as sorbetes—street ice cream peddled on colourful carts by hawkers. Sorbetes, mind you, is different from sorbet in that it is prepared using pureed natural ingredients mixed with either coconut or carabao milk. Filipino parents play a huge part in giving sorbetes its intriguing moniker of “dirty ice cream.” The term was used as a way to keep their children from asking for money to buy scoops of ice cream sold by vendors who did not wear any gloves. In truth, sorbetes is anything but dirty. The strategy backfired and children to this day continue to patronize these sweet treats regardless of the weather.
Apart from dirty ice cream, Mamasons will offer an innovative line of desserts ranging from the bilog, which is basically pandesal (Philippine bread rolls) stuffed with dirty ice cream to limited edition ube-flavoured donuts and pastries. Since it opened shop in Camden last year, Mamasons has been taking London by storm.
“I want non-Filipinos to know what they're missing out on!” said Omar when asked about what fuels his passion to share the love for Filipino food. “It's no secret to us that Filipino food is some of the best in the world, but most people in London don't know that. I want them to come into our place, look at a glass of halo-halo and think 'I don't know what that is but I want it in my mouth right now'.”
Since the opening of their first branch, Omar and Mae have been leading an upbeat team of second generation Filipinos in London and Philippine cuisine enthusiasts who are eager to know more about Philippine culture through the archipelago’s rich culinary tradition.
“Mamasons’ latest breakthrough is a milestone for Filipino entrepreneurs worldwide,” said Philippine Ambassador Antonio M. Lagdameo. “The presence of a Philippine brand in one of London’s most important culinary destinations shows that Filipino cuisine is gaining widespread popularity in the United Kingdom.”
With the quirky Philippine-inspired interiors of its Chinatown location, Omar and Mae aim to make Philippine culture appealing to the younger crowd not just through food but through visual arts as well. Mamasons’ new branch will provide a space for UK-based Filipino artists to exhibit their works.
Stay updated with the opening by following Mamasons at:
Meet Mamasons’ hardworking crew of second generation Filipinos in London who are reconnecting with their Filipino roots through Filipino food. Photo courtesy of Mamasons
Bilog, one of Mamasons’ bestsellers is dirty ice cream stuffed generously inside pandesal buns. Photo courtesy of Mamasons
Mamasons founders, Omar and Mae take a breather after another busy day at Mamasons’ Camden store. Photo courtesy of Mamasons