Reviewed by William Dobson
Sam and Sam Clark really are the Midases of the London restaurant scene. Moro is, well, Moro and their three cookery books are as near to perfection as humanly possible – perhaps only matched by Claudia Roden’s A New Book of Middle Eastern Food. So it was with excitement and high expectations that I finally made it to Morito, situated next door to its big sister (or brother – I’m not sure what gender restaurants are meant to be). Again, it may be slightly tenuous to include what is, in essence, a Spanish tapas bar here, but, like its elder sibling, Morito is heavily influenced and inspired by the food of the Middle East. Furthermore, while the wonderful Moro still remains the kind of restaurant which should be saved for special occasions, if I had the means you’d probably see me in Morito every evening and the odd lunchtime too.
It’s just so welcoming; a relaxed, unpretentious air somehow combined with the heaving throng of people squashed into a space which should be far too small. Yet, rather than feeling overcrowded, it feels intimate and cosy, the collective masses simultaneously enjoying the wondrous food. Enthused, slightly tipsy chatter oscillates with almost perfect synchronicity, as dish after dish flies out of the kitchen, each as delectable as the last. Furthermore, it’s the little Arab touches which add so much, elevating this above your standard London tapas offering. Little earthenware pots on the tables are filled with za’atar and sumac, while dishes such as spiced lamb, aubergine, yoghurt and pine nuts, the rich, earthy flavours melding together effortlessly, clearly have at least one foot in the Middle East. Flat breads, still warm from the oven, sprinkled with more za’atar, bring the aromas of Lebanon to the table and are served with Tunisian harissa, sweet, tart and ever so slightly spicy. Meanwhile, other dishes, clearly taken straight out of Spain, such as chicharrones de Cadiz, or slow roasted pork belly with cumin and lemon, unctuously soft and full of brash flavour, represent the vast Moorish influence on the country’s food heritage.
Of course, delights such as mini sea bass fillets with lemon, grilled to perfection; scallops served with chorizo, expertly balanced so as the deep, smoky sausage doesn’t overpower; salt cod croquetas, crunchy yet soft and delightful; or the waitress’s recommendation, pork fillet with fennel and quince alioli, flawless in both thought and execution, are predominantly Spanish in inspiration. Yet, it’s the wonderfully polygamous marriage of these different cuisines which is perhaps the most appealing aspect of an evening at Morito. Throw in some jamon iberico de bellota, the sweet acorn taste emanating through the plump, salty pig, and you’re not far off from a little bit of heaven in North London.
Visit Restaurant Website
Address: 32 Exmouth Market, London, EC1R 4QE
Telephone: 020 7278 7007
Average Price Per Person: £5 - 35 (depends how many plates you order!)