Saturday, 8th December 2018 – Moro, London
A trip to Moro in December has become a tradition for ourselves and a number of our friends, and is tacked on to the end of a visit to Sadlers’ Wells Theatre for whatever dance treat Matthew Bourne has laid on in the run up to Christmas. This year it was a reworked version of his Swan Lake, which contained much new choreography and a certain amount of new staging and was even better than last time. Thereafter it’s a short walk to the restaurant, and we know we’re guaranteed an excellent dinner before we disperse to our various homes. We were a tad early (largely because it was proving impossible to get a pre-dinner drink anywhere close by, probably because it was a Saturday night and close to Christmas.
As we were one of the first tables just after opening time, we were quickly given a table which was slightly closer to the associated coat pegs than I would have preferred, but that’s one of the downsides of eating in London; the tables can be on the cramped side, and Moro’s do tend to be. However, it’s worth it for the food. And the cocktails! I started with a Bourbon, maple and cinnamon sour which was warming, festive and rather fine.
There are always many good things on the Moro menu, so it was clear Lynne and I would need to share. From the mains I went for the Morrocan pastilla with pheasant, quail, pigeon, rose harissa and cinnamon, following on partly from the cocktail, but also getting in the mood for the winter months with a serving of game. It was as you would hope a pastilla should be, the brik pastry crisp and dusted with powdery icing sugar, the filling deep, rich and spicy. It’s one of those things I really must try and make some time.
The other starter was a portion of seared beef with beetroot, and almonds, with a horseradish and sherry vinegar dressing. This too was very good, with tender pink beef cooked just right, and a good kick to the dressing from the horseradish. The crunch of the almonds was great for the texture too.
We then hit the problem that really does wind me up in restaurants, particularly in London. That gripe is the sheer speed with which they insist on bringing the courses. I do understand that the rent and business rates mean they need to maximise their profits, but there’s surely a happy medium between getting the diner in and out in the fastest possible time, and allowing diners to relax and take their time. If I’m out with a group of friends, we want to take our time, to talk, to catch up, to maybe buy an extra bottle of wine and drink it slowly. Not possible unless you box very clever with your booking times (my advice is check when last orders for the kitchen are and don’t book earlier than two hours ahead of that time if you can), but we were early and thus were prime candidates for being whisked in and out in under 90 minutes while being fed three courses. Having since encountered a perfectly sensible booking system in Copenhagen (for Gorilla) that offered you a table for 90 minutes if you wanted a quick meal or an unspecified “longer” booking, that seems to me to be a sensible way to go about it. Presumably there are only so many of each type of booking available on any given night, and those who want to just throw food down their throats and leave can do so, while those of us who really don’t want to do that, don’t have to. Rant over…
The mains were up almost before we had a chance to put our starter knives and forks down. For mains Lynne and I were both having the same being unable to resist lamb in its main and varied guises. We were presented with pile of charcoal-grilled lamb in the form of a fattee (a Lebanese layered dish which starts from a base of pitta bread cooked in butter until it goes crisp) with a chickpea pilav, aubergines, tomato sauce, yogurt and coriander. It was very dense, very rich and utterly delicious, and if I’d had a lengthier pause between courses then I might have managed to finish it!
We managed to fend the waiting staff off for a while by dint of being very indecisive as to whether we wanted a dessert or not (and whether we could manage one or not), and eventually I opted for cheese and a sherry flight to go with it. The cheeses were well kept and nicely mature (Manchego, Zamorano, Picos de Europa and Torta de Barros) served, this being Spanish territory, with a lovely membrillo paste and some very good crisp flatbread.
The sherries were pretty good too, and went with the individual cheeses exceedingly effectively.
And then we were done, ready to disperse in all directions. I do like Moro, I just wish they’d be a bit more relaxed. Many diners will be done in 90 minutes or so, but not all of us want to be.
Fortunately, the food is really very good indeed and it’s close to Sadlers’ Wells, and thus we put up with being hurried.