Meet Mo Rahemah: The Syrian refugee behind brunch pop-up Mo's Eggs

by Aisling O’Leary

A slice of Syria can be found once a month in a pizza shop in North London. On a Sunday, Lost Pizza Boys in Archway transforms into Mo’s Eggs, a monthly pop-up brunch that specialises in Syrian brunch food. The team behind the gastronomic venture met while at the Calais Jungle. Mo, the head chef, and Ahmed, sous-chef are both Syrian refugees. Juliette, Lizzy and Alex – who serve food on Sundays but work on Mo’s website and social media otherwise- were volunteers at the refugee camp. 

Mo learnt to cook in the Calais Jungle and now runs a brunch pop-up once a month in North London. Photo by Juliette Lyons.

Mo learnt to cook in the Calais Jungle and now runs a brunch pop-up once a month in North London. Photo by Juliette Lyons.

Learning to cook in the Calais Jungle

Mo Rahemah learned how to cook in Calais, feeding friends he now calls colleagues. He tells me that his mother couldn’t believe it when he told her he cooked for 15 people on an almost nightly basis.  Ingredients at the camp were basic, so he learned to perfect a dish that pleases people internationally: eggs.

Mo left behind his parents and two younger sisters in 2016. But there was no other option: if he remained in Syria, his choices were to either join President Bashar al-Assad’s army or be killed if he didn’t. He is from the small town Ain al-Fijah in the south of Syria. This town no longer exists because, Mo tells me, “the government released bombs and laid siege to our village”. His family fled for safety in Damascus where they currently reside but Mo plans to eventually make enough money to pay for their visas.  

Making a new life in London

He saved enough to come to London, where his new life is slowly reaping rewards. Mo’s Eggs is fast becoming a success: a ticket to his brunch must be bought well in advance as word of mouth as well as an active social media presence means it quickly sells out. Arriving bright and early on a Sunday morning (10.00 am was the only seating available at the time of booking), we’re greeted by one of the jungle bunch, Alex, who bounces over to greet myself and my friend at the door. “Hey, welcome in!” After crossing our names off her list, she leads us over to the end of a table, seating us beside two other millennials, hungry for their dose of culture.

Popular Lebanese singer Fairuz plays in the background and there’s a calm, pass-your-plate atmosphere as we sit down to a table laden with various plates of mezze. Israeli salad, three types of hummus (traditional, beet, avocado) and grilled vegetables topped with halloumi await. Bottomless Syrian coffee is the beverage du jour, brewed with an essence of cardamom. However, those looking to leave brunch with a pep in their step are not forgotten as there is also unlimited prosecco to order.

Mo first started making eggs while he was cooking in the Calais Jungle because it catered for everyone, no matter their nationality. Photo by Juliette Lyons.

Mo first started making eggs while he was cooking in the Calais Jungle because it catered for everyone, no matter their nationality. Photo by Juliette Lyons.

Who can say no to Shakshuka?

But let’s not forget the main event. Served one after the other, leaving no one hungry, are two types of eggs. The “asylum eggs”, a type of frittata. It’s a wedge of warm, moreish cheese and spice, exactly what you need on a cold day. Then, just when you think you’ve had your fill, the waitress comes out with the “jungle eggs”, Mo’s take on the popular Middle Eastern baked egg dish known as shakshuka. Who can ever say no to this tomato-based delight?

Swapping stories with the girls next to us while helping ourselves to seconds, the mission of this brunch to is to bring to London what the refugees and Calais camp volunteers miss from the jungle: connection. Despite the horror stories that the refugee camp was known for, the team behind Mo’s Eggs prefer to remember the fond times. Which was almost always shared over a plate of eggs.

Brunch at Mo’s Eggs starts with mezze including three types of hummus. Photo by Susan Davis.

Brunch at Mo’s Eggs starts with mezze including three types of hummus. Photo by Susan Davis.