Address: 32 Exmouth Market, EC1R 4QE
Contact: 020 7278 7007
Opening times: 6 Days: Mon – Sat: 12pm – 11pm, closed Sun
Tubes: Angel, Farringdon, Old Street
A year or so ago I did a week-long Stage at Moro. An unusual place to do one you might think and you’d be right. See stages are one of those intensely serious, “Cheffy” things that only the dedicated and tediously ambitious professional does: go and work, for free, in a high pressure environment to prove you can be shouted out by the best of them all in the name of EXPERIENCE. Stages take place in restaurants with Michelin Stars and the faint smear of dairy on the wall following a Postal rant involving a Head Chef, a cheese trolley and a cowering Maitr’d; They don’t take place in convivial local Spanish-slash-North-African eateries but I liked the cut of Moro’s Jib – I liked the multi-coloured tiles that surround their wood burning oven, I liked the heavy set curtain that hangs just inside the door to keep the cold out and I loved the food. And so off I toddled. And what a happy little toddle it was too. See unlike those Cheese stained, Star driven, I’m-too-scared-to-breathe-so-will-just-quietly-pass-out -in-the-corner kitchens Moro saunters to the beat of its own drum. It was much like working in a foodie Commune, a place where there is no enforced hierachy, where everybody pitches in and helps one another and where the end product is so-much the better for it. Chefs would volunteer to do Front-of-house evening shifts following a capacity lunch service. The bar staff would help with staff lunch and occasionally the owner’s 10 year old daughter would pop in just to check that standards weren’t slipping. The store cupboards were laden with amazing Spanish produce from the likes of Brindisa and the shelves would sigh blissfully under the weight of Za’atar, Sumac and Paprika. In short it was a happy kitchen – a happy restaurant – creating some of the best food of its type in the country. And when I was there was on the verge of opening its sister restaurant, the Tapas focussed Morito, right next door. Up until this point Moro had served Tapas at the main restaurant bar but perhaps not to the extent that you would expect from a Spanish operation. Morito stood to correct this: to showcase exactly what small plates can deliver. It was eagerly anticipated by all-and-sundry and, I am thrilled but not at all surprised to say, has lived up to the calling.
As it is so with everything at Moro the attention to detail and the thought that goes into the flavours shine through at Morito. The beer glasses are kept in the freezer to enhance the refreshing, crisp hit you get from the Cruz Campo they have on Draught. Gilda, arguably the nicest thing I’ve ever eaten on a stick, is meticulously thought through: the sweetness of the silver-skin onion playing off the salt from the Anchovy, tempered by the heat from the Guindilla pepper.
The Salt Cod Croquetas couldn’t be executed any better: hot, crisp, perfectly gooey inside. The Chicharrones de Cadiz we ordered, a slow roast nugget of yielding Pork Belly encrusted with Cumin seed, was cut with just the right amount of lemon resulting in a full-on piggy meltdown on my part.
There followed “a new dish” of slow cooked beef with quince which had been spiked with wonderful orange and winter spice notes, the perfect plate for this time of year. Puntillitas – fried baby Squid with Sumac – was just as it should be and the Buttifarra was bang-on the money. Braised Spinach with Anchovies and Pine nuts was far more than the sum of its parts, in no small way down to the inclusion of wonderful, fat, juicy raisins that ran through the dish. In short this was superb Tapas: as interesting, well executed and down-right delicious as any I’ve had anywhere. Everything we eat tasted as though it had been made by people that love what they do. And that is rare. The meal was rounded off with an excellent Espresso, which isn’t Spanish but I don’t care. The whole thing – the food, the drink, the service and the bright orange bar at which we sat, made me very, very happy. And there is no greater accolade in cooking than that.
Conclusion: It simply doesn’t get any better than this.
Cost: 4 gilda, 1 salt cod croquetas, 1 butifarra, 1 chicharrones, 1 spinach, 1 beef & quince, 1 squid, 2 half beers, 1 glass of red & an espresso came to £48.83. You can’t put a price on an experience this good. Morito has and it’s a stone-cold bargain!