Saturday, 17th December 2016 – Moro, Exmouth Market, London
After a visit to Sadler’s Wells, which is not exactly the most central of London’s theatres, it’s become almost a tradition for us to go to the splendid Moro for an early dinner. Well, if you can call three times a tradition. I think you probably can…
Anyway this time was no exception and we booked a table at the earliest possible time given they don’t open until 6pm, and the performance finished at 4.30, which meant we ended up in a good – but phenomenally noisy – pub, where we had to shout at each other to make ourselves heard.
We rolled up at Moro with a few minutes to spare, but there were people already going inside, so we joined them, and were very quickly seated by a pillar, which also had coat hooks on it. Now this can be a minor problem when you want to sit comfortably and I had to do a bit of shuffling around of my chair before I was able to stop catching people’s coats every time I moved. However, no complaints about the table beyond that.
Lynne wasn’t feeling too well (possibly as a result of fridge issues we’ve been having – it looked like she’d eaten something that wasn’t at its best and now neither was she), so she started with a Bloody Mary, which tends to be a good cure-all for slightly dodgy stomachs.
The rest of us went for the aperitif of the day, a vermouth cava option…
Or in my case a manzanilla sour, which was a lovely way to start a meal, very refreshing and far lighter than the more traditional whisky sour.
There was some debate over what to order, with so many tempting choices on what is a shortish but quality packed menu. In the end we started with the chestnut and chorizo soup, something that is so good I’ve made it myself twice already this month (even though I had to use chestnut puree instead of whole chestnuts).
In addition we shared a game-bird brik, a small, intensely flavoured version of a pastilla with the meat cooked to a soft consistency, sweet, falling apart along its own fibres, and with crisp pastry that had been well-drained of any oil or fat. It was served with a rose harissa paste that lifted it beautifully and added a kick of heat and spice to an already tasty morsel.
There were other dishes ordered by our dining companions but they weren’t sharing (!) so I can’t comment on the flavour or ingredients, and can only say they looked and smelled good, especially the scallop ceviche.
Oh and there was a fabulous sourdough that kept being replenished to the point where we thought we’d better ask the charming waitress to stop for fear we wouldn’t be able to eat our mains.
Moro are very keen on wood roasted dishes, and the lamb Lynne ordered looked and tasted superb, but sadly she hadn’t improved much after the Bloody Mary and she struggled to eat much of it. The waitress was concerned, asking whether there was a problem, but when we explained she could not have been sweeter, and when asked parcelled the leftovers up, labelled them with date, dish and restaurant name and supplied strict reheating instructions as well. I was much impressed.The accompanying deep-fried oyster mushrooms were fabulous and the slow cooked leeks no longer recognisable as a relatively innocuous green relative of the onion family, but sweet and soft and glorious. I could eat them everyday!
I ordered the wood roasted duck (I know, how predictable of me!) and it too was beautifully executed, served with a chestnut pilaf, and fried okra. Now I’ve never much enjoyed okra before, it being one of those vegetables that can turn very easily into a glutinous, horrible mess. Consider me converted. These were crisp round the edges, firm of flesh and really, really tasty. Nothing slimy or slippery about them. And the chestnut pilaff is on my list of dishes I’d like to recreate some time soon. It’s a lovely wintery combination to have chestnuts and duck and I had ceased to care what the weather was doing outside by the time I’d cleared my plate.
Our fellow diners had the wood roasted pork, which was enormous, and has lentils with it. I didn’t try it – I’m really not a big enough fan of pork to have wanted to, and anyway I was kind of busy with my duck!
Afterwards, we were threatened with dessert but in the end Dave and I decided we’d go for a cheese plate between the two of us. The other two looked on in some horror, but we tackled the bonvalis, the picos de Europa and the torta de Barros cheeses with membrillo with some gusto, and with the recommended sherry flight each, possibly just to prove we could!
I love Moro. I just wish it was a bit closer to Central London so I could go more often. It’s also not at all unreasonably priced, friendly, warm and comfortable. And they know how to cook and they know their ingredients. I am now in possession of two of their cookbooks and intend using them both in anger very soon.