The four-strong group was founded as a supper club by former private equity professional Ning Ma while she was working in the City.
After opening in Brixton Village five years ago, Mamalan has grown to four sites – with two more due to open over the next two months in Shoreditch and Croydon.
Ma told BigHospitality's sister publication MCA Insight she planned to open four sites next year in London and when asked on her ultimate ambition for the concept told MCA: “How long is a piece of string?”
“It depends on how many we can possibly do”, she said. “There’s no-one doing what we do. The fact we haven’t had any help and have grown to six sites is a very strong indication for the demand. It depends on if we can get the sites and get the right team. I wouldn’t want to say we would stop at 20, I think we can do a lot more.”
Mamalan was inspired by a dumpling stall started by Ma's grandfather in Beijing in the 1970s. She moved to London as a teenager in 1998, studying at LSE, and joining PwC as an auditor before going on to work in the City in private equity.
The supper club was started by Ma and her mother out of frustration with the limited Chinese food options in London, and after Brixton opened at a series of small-cover venues in Clapham, Dalston and East Village.
“At first we weren’t sure whether people would like this type of flavour, or whether it was just that no one had brought it to market before”, she said.
“But as we went on and more people tried it, it became obvious people liked it, so it was a case of bringing it to people.
“When we’re selecting sites it’s less ‘where will it work’, and more about finding a site that’s available and the right size. It’s not like we’re thinking people in East London will prefer it more than West London. It’s more about what site’s available and whether the logistics work.”
The menu has expanded since the first 25-cover Brixton restaurant, with noodle dishes, skewers and buns, as well as the core dumpling range.
At Shoreditch Mamalan will offer an extended Asian-inspired cocktail tailored to a younger market.
Ma said she would not turn down private equity funding – but told MCA partners would need to bring the right experience. “It will depend on who the other party is”, she added. “It’s not just money that people bring, if it’s experience, knowledge and operations, then that could be very good combination for us.”