Sunday, 31 October 2010

Morito - Moro's baby

Morito menu 25 Oct 2010

Moro has been a favourite with London’s chefs almost since the day it opened.  With the behind the scenes backing of Mark Sainsbury, husband and wife chefs Samuel and Samantha Clark concentrate on Spanish and Muslim Mediterranean food, a culinary mix which is close to their hearts.  With a home in Moorish Andalucia and extensive travels in the southern Mediterranean, their cooking has a sense of place and coherence too rarely seen.  One other restaurant which comes to mind is the reverred Italian influenced River CafĂ©, where both Sams served time with Ruth Rogers and the late Rose Gray, before setting up Moro.
Thirteen years of success later they have produced an offshoot right next door.  What was a small, but much-loved, shop run by the excellent Spanish food importer Brindisa (still to be found at Borough Market) is now an intimate tapas bar.  So busy was Morito on a Monday evening that, unusually, you could get a seat at the no-booking bar in Moro at 8.30pm.  Whilst Moro is a full-blown restaurant with a bar for tapas, the more extensive tapas menu at Morito offers the chance to try lots of different dishes in small, affordable portions.  As at Moro, ingredients are carefully sourced and sympathetically spiced.
Of the dishes we tried, salt cod croquetas were crispy and, with a high cod ratio, deliciously moreish; tortilla was made juicy with red peppers; nuggets of cumin coated pork with crackling were zingy with lemon juice; tender fried baby squid were served with an excellent alioli; beef tagine was meltingly soft and wonderfully sticky with the addition of prunes.  Only the tomato bread failed to hit the spot.  A scoop each of Malaga raisin ice cream with a shot of Pedro Ximenez was the perfect ending.  The Spanish wine list is small but perfectly formed and, as at Moro, the range of sherries is impeccable.  Six small plates, two desserts, two glasses of Verdejo and two glasses of house Tempranillo plus two cortados brought the bill to around £50 .
The space may be tiny but it’s well thought out.  Rough grey painted walls and a few simple wooden tables and chairs are countered with a sunny two-tone orange Formica bar.  In good weather more seating is available outside.  Behind the bar, half of the space is taken up by the kitchen with a tiny prep area just beyond.  Despite the number of plates passed over the counter during the hour we were there, the chef was calm and totally in control.  As at Moro, the staff give every indication that they love the place and you are welcome - very much like being in a good tapas bar in Granada in fact.  Sitting at a bar, chatting to the staff, and being able to watch the food being cooked is always an attraction for me.  Food, drink, good company and a cookery lesson, that’s a perfect night out for me. 

Update: Is it me or has this place failed to live up to its early promise?  My last two visits were disappointing.
32 Exmouth Market
London  EC1R 4QE
Tube: Angel or Farringdon

Mon 17.00-23.00, Tues-Sat 12.30-15.30 and 16.30-23.00 No pre-booking
No website as yet but you can find Moro at