“ Address: 74 - 82 Queen Victoria Street / Bow Lane / London / EC4N 4SJ / Tel: +44 0 20 7489 9895 „
Mahoe first opened for business in summer 2008. The name "Mahoe" was chosen because it sounded a good name for a cafe-bar as well as its reference to the "blue-mahoe" a tree native to Jamaica. The table in the alcove area where we sat for a good part of the evening is made of mahoe wood as was the platter on which we were served part of our meal.
On a hen night in the City we found ourselves at a loose end for a couple of hours as the venue that had been chosen for the evening wasn't due to open till 9.30pm. We came across Mahoe Cafe quite by accident. Wearing high heels and wanting to sit down with some drinks and light snacks to get us in the party mood we thought we'd check this place out.
THE SETTING / OUR EXPERIENCE
The exterior had a handful of tables and chairs for smokers, we thought it was just a local cafe type place from the look of the outside - it wasn't particularly welcoming but having wandered around for a while trying to find ANYWHERE to have a drink and a snack we thought anything that was open to the public would suffice.
After saying all that we were actually very pleasantly surprised when we entered the "cafe" downstairs. It certainly was not somewhere I'd call a cafe, more like a rather smart restaurant. The tables were spaced out quite nicely and we asked for a table to be seated at; at the time there were just two of us but we were expecting a further 10 or so people to join us shortly. We were initially seated at a small round table with 4 short stools (I say stools but they were very comfortable) and advised that we would be moved to another seating area in a nice cosy alcove for a larger group within a short period of time once the current diners had vacated. We found the staff to be very accommodating especially considering we hadn't booked and all the other people there had booked their tables in advance.
I liked the way the tables were laid out with good spacing in between. Small candles on each table enhanced the mood lighting in the place - it wasn't dark and dingy but definitely conducive to a romantic atmosphere for couples and also bright enough to be just appropriate for group conversation. The music was pleasant and not too loud at all - again the perfect level for conversation not to have to be loud to hear over the music. The chairs looked expensive, seemed like leather with high backs and they all looked new.
We were served at our table by several different staff members, all of whom couldn't have been nicer if they tried. It really was a case of service with a smile and one member of staff told us how it was only recently that they started opening on Saturdays (due to the area mostly being frequented by "city types" during the week and not much call for venues of this sort at the weekend in that area). Seems it was definitely worthwhile opening up on Saturdays as the place was quite busy.
I thought it best to mention a couple of things about Mahoe to bear in mind if you're visiting. Firstly it might call itself a cafe but the menu definitely does not reflect your average cafe prices. A 175 ml glass of white wine will cost you between £3.50-4.50 with the Sauvignon Blanc costing £13.50 a bottle or Chenin Blanc costing £18.50. We initially ordered a bottle of rose but the Merlot wasn't available at £16.50 so we had to go for the Night Harvest Zinfandel at £19.50 which we felt was quite steep for what it was. The other thing I have to mention is the temperature in Mahoe, it was very warm inside and with no ventilation apparent, we did ask if they could turn on the a/c which they said they did but it was of pretty much no use (or maybe it wasn't working, we weren't told either way). Our drinks got warm in the glass within minutes of pouring them into glasses which wasn't really very pleasant and everyone in our group was complaining about how hot it was within a few minutes of arriving. It wasn't just warm; it was unbearably warm, so much so that it would put me off going there again in the warmer months if I was in the area. I don't know if this was a ploy to get people to buy more drinks but it didn't work for us as we just wanted to finish our drinks and leave quite quickly.
There are no disabled facilities to note at Mahoe, the main drinking/eating area is down one flight of stairs and there was no lift evident anywhere so not really feasible for wheelchair users.
The toilets were clean and smart. Good quality hand soap and hand cream were available and there was no shortage of toilet roll/hand tissues which can be a problem in some venues later in the evening. It definitely seemed as if the toilets were regularly monitored for supplies by staff.
The minimum cost for a fruit juice at Mahoe is £2 for basics such as orange, apply, cranberry or pineapple with sparkling soft drinks at £1.80 per glass. A Xamaica Liqueur Coffee costs £8.95. The cheapest spirit is £3.40 for a single and cocktails start at £6.50 for a Daiquiri going up to £9.00 for a Mahoe Champagne Cocktail. A cocktail pitcher would set you back £40.00. As for tea and coffee prices, the prices start at £1.80 and go up to £5.95 for Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee.
I'll give you a sample of the food prices so as to give you a rough idea of the prices:
FROM THE BAR MENU
* Spiced nuts £3.95
* Fries/Spiced Fries £3.25 (we had these, the portion was VERY small)
* Sweet Potato Fries £3.25
* Guava Jerk Chicken Wings £4.25
* Jerk Chicken Skewers £5.25 (we also had these, again a very small portion)
* Papaya Prawn Skewer £6.50
* Veg platter (including Chickpea Fritters, Goat's Cheese Crostini, & Roast Yam, with Coconut Yoghurt & Gungo Pea Salsa) £7.95
* Meat platter (including Jerk Chicken Skewers, Rib-Eye Steak Strips & Guava Jerk Chicken Wings, with Gungo Pea Salsa & Jerk Sauce) £9.95
FROM THE "FOOD" MENU
* Soup of the day £5.50
* Mahoe Jerk Chicken Salad £8.75
* Prawn & Crab Wrap £7.95
* Jerk Chicken Sandwich £8.50
* Goat's Cheese Crostini £8.75
FROM THE "BIG FOOD" MENU (Served with EITHER Mahoe Rice & Peas; salad; fries; roasted vegetables; OR roti bread)
* Jerk Chicken £13.95
* 8oz Sirloin Steak £15.95
* Jerk Red Snapper £14.95
Mahoe hosts a buffet on the first Sunday of each month which costs £20 a head and is accompanied by live steel pan music all day. The menu is as on other days - Caribbean.
If your group is 8 or more, Mahoe adds a 10% service charge to your bill. All tips received are shared amongst the staff.
The website recommends that you book in advance rather than just turn up as sometimes they can be booked out for a private function. This was evident from our visit as most of the tables for larger groups were pre-booked - we were very lucky to get the alcove area as there was eventually a dozen people in our group.
DO I RECOMMEND IT?
Overall I would rate Mahoe as an above average 3.5 out of 5. It loses 1.5 points for being so overly warm so as to be uncomfortable for diners and drinkers and for being slightly over-priced for drinks (by comparison, we went to a nightclub around the corner where the cocktails and wine were considerably cheaper).
A nice atmosphere and very nice friendly staff; the experience was mostly spoilt by the excessive heat at the venue. I wouldn't say that the food is overly authentic Caribbean as I've tried Caribbean food elsewhere and didn't find the jerk chicken sauce at Mahoe's to taste much like the stuff I've tried before. Saying that I can't say that the food wasn't tasty as it really was!
CONTACT DETAILS / OPENING TIMES / GETTING THERE
Mahoe Cafe Bar is situated at 74 Queen Victoria Street, London EC4N 4SJ and their phone number is 020 7489 9895. Their website is www.mahoecafe.com
Opening times are Mon to Wed 11:45 - 22:00, Thu - Fri 11:45 - 23:00, Sat 18:30 - 23:00. Sun 12:00 - 17:00. The kitchen takes last orders up to 30 minutes before each of the closing times listed.
The closest tube station to Mahoe is Mansion House (District & Circle lines), if you leave at exit 4, Mahoe is in front of you as you exit the station. If you are travelling in on the Central Line, Bank Station is about a 7 minute walk.