Hidden gem ‘cooking with love’ above city centre pub

The enticing smells draw you up the stairs to Momo’s.

Found above Sanctuary Craft Beer Bar on Lime Street, the street food spot serves authentic Nepalese steamed dumplings, called momos. As you walk through the bar and ascend to Momo’s, the smell changes from the familiar pub scent of hops and malted barley to an array of spices.

It is a cold and rainy Wednesday lunchtime when I venture across town to Momo’s. The venue opened last year and is run by cousins Ansil Kharel, 20 and Dhanpati Kharel, 26.

READ MORE: Spitroast restaurant to close ‘within a matter of days’

Ansil is the son of Netra Kharel, who owns Nepalese restaurant Da Gurkha in Waterloo. While Dhanpati is Netra’s brother. Momo’s is ‘inspired by’ Da Gurka, they say.

After taking a seat on a high table looking out over a busy Lime Street, I ordered a portion of chicken momos (£5) and the momo hot special (£6), both arrived quickly. It is quite a substantial lunch (one portion would do) and the dumplings are the perfect tonic on a drab weekday.

Chicken momos (left) and the hot special (right) at Momo's on Lime Street
Chicken momos (left) and the hot special (right) at Momo’s on Lime Street
(Image: Dan Haygarth / Liverpool ECHO)

They are packed with the stuffing, while each portion is dressed in a deep sauce. I start with the chicken, which is very, very good.

The dumplings, filled with minced chicken, lamb fat and a collection of Nepalese herbs and spices, are juicy and well-seasoned. Clean, defined flavours shine through while the tomato and Szechuan sauce enlivens proceedings.

Matters become more interesting with the hot special. A chicken dumpling again, but this time covered in a chilli sauce.

The sauce is a base of tomato and Szechuan, with naga chillies, ghost chillies, scotch bonnet chillies, herbs and seasoning added. Again, the dumplings are great, but the sauce brings another dimension.

It is excellent, providing a great spicy kick with a smokiness and sour tang that cut through. The spice from the chilli special lingers in a very welcome manner, while chilli peppers in the sauce bring a nice crunch and textural variety.

The momos are an ideal lunch to brighten up a grey North West day.

Keen to learn more, I spoke to Ansil and Dhanpati about the restaurant’s beginnings, their style of cooking and their hopes for the future.

Ansil told the ECHO: “I worked at Da Gurkha and that basically inspired this. It all started off with garnishing and then I levelled up in my dad’s restaurant to a tandoori chef and then to a chef.

“Through those steps, I learned how nice it feels when someone appreciates how well you cook or when their body language shows that or when they’re smiling. That gives me so much motivation and energy to cook even more and to expand on what I do.”

There are reminders of Nepalese heritage all around Momo’s. Photos of Gurkha soldiers adorn the walls, alongside pictures of the Himalayas.

Celebrating that heritage and bringing it to a wider audience is very important to Ansil. He said: “What I’m trying to be here is a street food place for Desi people and something that the British community will like.

“It’s not a proper sit down restaurant where you have a fancy meal, it’s a nice place where students can come and chill, you can bring your laptop and do some work, eat some food. We also serve tea, we have wifi, so if people want to come in and work, they can.”

Ansil Kharel (front) and Dhanpati Kharel at Momo's
Ansil Kharel (front) and Dhanpati Kharel at Momo’s
(Image: Andrew Teebay Liverpool Echo)

A machine in the corner of the restaurant allows Ansil and Dhanpati to deal with the demand. They make 3,000 dumplings a week, all made with fresh and authentic ingredients.

Sanctuary bar below is also a good source of trade. Tables on the bar below all have a QR code that allows drinkers to order from Momo’s and enjoy a portion of dumplings with their beer.

Ansil, who is also studying a degree in Psychotherapy at Liverpool Hope, hopes Momo’s can play a role in bringing Nepalese food to people across Liverpool.

He said: “I’m in here every day, I’m more full time here because this is my baby, this is my bread and butter, this is what pays my bills. Me being here feels more homely than actually being home because I’ve seen this grow up in stages.

“I hope we’re paving the way for Nepalese food here. It’s a mix of Indian and Chinese but the best of both. In my opinion, Nepalese food is better than Indian and Chinese and most other cuisines.

“It’s got flavours from the south side of Asia, it’s got herbs and seasoning from India, influence from the Himalayas, everything is fresh. And everything is cooked with love, I cook with love, that’s what makes my food – I think – taste so good.

“I love cooking and I love seeing people eat my food and enjoy it, because there’s no better joy than seeing someone enjoy what you’ve made with your own hands. I’m so happy that people enjoy it.”

Looking to the future, he hopes expansion can be on the cards as Nepalese food finds a wider audience. He wants to look beyond Liverpool and to other cities.

Ansil said: “Look at London, Manchester and Birmingham – there are very big Asian communities. I want to break into that community, show them how nice Nepalese food can be.

“I want to expand the minds of some of the British community as well, because some people struggle to delve into wanting to try new foods. I want to bring them in.

“For example, chips – all British people like them. But our seasoning of the chilli combines the Nepalese and the British aspects of everything.

“I’m going to do ‘salt and pepper momos’, but just in Liverpool because that’s a Scouse thing.”

Serving exciting and distinctive food in a relaxed city centre setting, Momo’s is an excellent lunch spot that is sure to brighten up a rainy weekday. If Ansil and Dhanpati keep doing what they’re doing, there’s no reason why their grand plans of expansion can’t happen.

Get the top stories straight to your inbox by signing up to our what’s on newsletter


Mum with eight kids faces nightmare as landlord wants them out

Council wants to end free parking after 6pm

Mum shed five stone and dumped husband after realisation on girls’ holiday

Killer brothers laugh and grin as judge jails them for manslaughter

I visited my great-great-nan’s street and found the most Irish man I know

Liverpool Echo – What’s On