Moro restaurant

by Jeanne on September 8, 2006

in Uncategorized

Reasons why I should like Moro:

  • I love Spanish food. 
  • Their cookbook looks great.
  • Johanna (whose opinion in all things culinary I trust implicitly) likes their cookbook.
  • They have a great reputation as a London mecca for Spanish food.
  • And did I mention that I love Spanish food?!

Plenty of reasons, really.  Plus the fact that it’s situated in the rather charming Exmouth Market which always feels strangely un-Londonish and exotic.  So it was with delicious anticipation that Johanna and I booked a table and agreed to meet there with our respective other halves a couple of Fridays ago.  As with many other popular London restaurants, I could not have a table for 19h30, but was allocated a 19h00-21h00 slot which I always find tremendously annoying – but c’est la vie when dining in London.

Moro is an airy (if somewhat bare) space with a couple of tables on the pavement leading to a long, modern room with a bar counter down one wall and an open kitchen at the back of the room, lit with natural light from a large skylight.  The lack of soft furnishings make it a rather noisy place too, but we weren’t too bothered as we weren’t there for a romantic meal a deux ;-) While we chatted and looked at the menu, I watched as a waiter sliced chunks off the still-steaming, blackened loaves of bread fresh from the charcoal oven.  Said chunks were brought over to us with some olive oil and proved to be a very promising start to the evening – dense and heavy with a chewy crust that perfectly paired with robustly fruity olive oil.

The first disappointment came with the information that tapas are only served if you are seated at the bar.  Since we had all been rather keen on tapas, this was a blow, and with four people it’s jst not practical (or social) to sit in a straight line at the bar!  I guess we coudl have pushed the point, but in any event it looked like a silly ruling.  Why would it be harder for the staff to serve tapas at the tables, rather than serving food off the full menu?   So it may well be that if we’d sat at the bar and had tapas, it would have been a different evening, but that’s not what transpired.  For our Moromojama starters, Johanna, Nick and I all had mojama (salt-cured tuna loin) on fresh pinto beans cooked with tomato – and this was truly the highlight of my meal.  I had never heard of or eaten mojama but I certainly plan to do so again in future!  It looks like cured ham and is very salty at first, but this was the perfect foil for the mild pinto beans, and the first wave of saltiness turns into a delicious and robust fishiness after a few chews – just gorgeous. Chris had jamon iberico and grilled padron peppers which were visually very striking but he wasn’t particularly moved – unlike the rest of us and our mojama! 

Morochicken However, things took a turn for the worse with the arrival of the main courses.  Both Johanna and Nick had the wood roasted chicken with courgettes cooked in yoghurt and mint with pine nuts.  And on the plus side, I do have to say that the portions were gigantic.  Each of them got what appeared to be two chicken supremes (or two utterly enormous thighs) with crispy skin – but with little pools of fat in the nooks and crannies of the chicken.  Now, for a cholesterol queen like me, that might not have been a problem, but neither Nick nor Johanna was particularly impressed with the generaly fattiness of the chicken.  I have to say, though, that their accompanying courgettes cooked in yoghurt and mint was delicious and made me wish I’d ordered the chicken.  But the portion size and the greasiness were, frankly, off-putting. 

Morofish Chris had the charcoal-grilled red mullet with celery, preserved lemon and olive salad seen over here on the left.  His exact words when I asked him about it were "well, fish is fish".  So nothing to write home about there then!!  I had the lovely-sounding charcoal grilled lamb with aubergine pilaf and a spiced cucumber salad.  Good points:  the lamb was delicious and you could taste that it had been charcoal-grilled; and…. erm… that’s it.  One of the things I love most about lamb is its innate fattiness, but this must have Morolamb_1   been a fillet of some sort as there was not a smidgeon of fat to be seen (or tasted!) on it – disappointing, but not fatal, compared to my other complaints.  The first disconcerting impression was that my plate was noticeably smaller than the other three.  Not only was this slightly odd, it also meant that everything was squished unattractively together – I have to say that for plating, my food got a solid 0/10.  My granny giving me roast lamb for Sunday lunch in her suburban kitchen could have done a better job.  The aubergine pilaf was another disappointment.  The rice was fine and attractively al dente, but the chunks of aubergine had apparently been cooking since about July and all that remained were the chewy squares of skin, each with a slick of the cooked-into-oblivion flesh.  I have absolutely no doubt that I could have done a better job myself – and a touch of seasoning might not have hurt either!  Last and very much least we come to the "spiced cucumber salad".  Now I don’t know if the chef was having an off night or what, but this consisted of diced cucumber, a handful of chickpeas, virginally pure and devoid of seasoning, plus two bits of flat-leaf parsley in a little heap.  And that’s it.  Spiced??  Not unless the meaning of the word has been changed to "unseasoned; bland" while I wasn’t looking.  So although there was nothing nasty on my plate, it looked boring and hastily thrown together – and tasted the same – which is, frankly, not what I go to a restaurant to experience.  And with the main courses in the fairly substantial £16 to £18 each range, I certainly expected a lot more.

Morotart Right – on to dessert.  Things can only get better.  Well, as it turns out, not much better.  By that time I think Nick & Chris had seen the writing on the wall and opted for liqueurs instead of dessert.  But the eternal optimists Jeanne and Johanna forged ahead and ordered the chocolate and apricot tart. I had visions of the fabulous tarts at Flaneur where the chocolate and ginger tart consists of rich, dark chocolate topped with chunks of crystallised ginger.  What arrived looked perfectly promising (if indifferently plated) – but sadly, there was no redemption for this tart.  Although the chocolate component wasn’t bad – light and bittersweet – the apricot component appeared to be… a layer of apricot jam spread on the too-solid crust!  I tried scooping some chocolate only from the top of the tart and found…  no trace of apricot flavour.  I’m not saying it was unpleasant, but I certainly expected a lot more from a restaurant with as good a name as Moro’s. 

In the end, the meal cost in the region of £35 each with wine, and all I could think was that I’d paid far less for far better meals in London (Arbutus for one; the Salt Yard for another; and not forgetting the terrifically well-priced menu du jour at Le Pont de la Tour).  And although we were expecting to be hustled out of our seats at 21h31, the never happened – obviously because there were no takers for the 21h30 sitting.  Could it be that we weren’t the only ones less than impressed with the place?! 

In summary, I couldn’t say that we had an appallingly bad meal.  But it was a consistently disappointing meal (with the exception of my lovely starter), and the price wasn’t low enough that you could forgive this.  Maybe the trick is to go for tapas – I don’t know.  Although, given this experience, I would rather spend my money on tapas at Brindisa.

And here’s Johanna’s review of the same meal.

Moro
34 – 36 Exmouth Market
London
EC1R 4QE

tel: +44 (0)20 7833 8336
fax: +44 (0)20 7833 9338
e-mail:
info@moro.co.uk

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Silverbrow September 8, 2006 at 6:53 pm

All things considered it doesn’t sound so bad. Nonetheless it’s a shame you didn’t have a great time as it is a great restaurant. I’d definitely give it another go.
I had lunch at The Ambassador, also on Exmouth Market which was excellent. I really need to write-up that meal at some point.

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Jeanne September 8, 2006 at 9:21 pm

Hi Silverbrow
I know, I know – I can’t even put it in the category of “laughably bad”. It was just unsatisfying and unimpressive and you kept thinking to yourself “I could get more for my money”.
I mean, plating isn’t the end of the world, and if I’d got my lamb at The Stockpot I would no doubt have been thrilled. But the prices here were 3 or 4 times what you’d pay at the Stockpot and the plate of food I got looked indistinguishable from what you’d get there! I think I was most annoyed at the feeling that nobody had taken much care about the food on my plate (once the lamb had finished cooking, that is!).
When I go out, I want to feel a little pampered and with indifferent food and indifferent service, I just didn’t feel that way. Which is forgiceable in some nameless suburban trattoria, but not in a restaurant of Moro’s reputation. Maybe I’ll take your advice and try again – only this time I’m having tapas come hell or high water!!

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Andrew September 9, 2006 at 12:27 am

Neither your or Johannas write up is much of an inticment! We have a tapas/Spanish restaurant in the centre of Henley (La Bodega). Its ok (well I enjoy it) but maybe not up to your high-falutin city ways! Anyway next time you are down these ‘ere parts we should go (now that I know you like tapas; although the meza at the Green Olive is rather good too).

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johanna September 9, 2006 at 1:06 pm

my god you’ve been busy posting!
and while you were writing this up, I have decided where we’ll go next, as Robuchon is opening here in London!! bet he’ll get better marks!!!

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anthony September 11, 2006 at 8:13 am

Went to a tapas restaurant the other night and hence have a miss manners question for you since I know you like wine.
Is it good form for a person complain incessantly about somebody else’s wine choice of a tempranillo because they think the only real wine is a shiraz?
Would it be out of order for said chooser of tempranillo to thump the Shiraz person, given that it was someone else’s birthday?
Warm regards
Angry in Perth

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Andrew September 11, 2006 at 8:33 pm

couldn’t the shiraz person ordered his own bottle? I would have arranged to knock over his glass – preferrably on his lap or in his food.

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Constance September 12, 2006 at 7:28 am

Thanks for the details. My grandma just adores Spanish food too, and I know she’ll rave about all these when she gets to visit the place.

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Jeanne September 12, 2006 at 10:25 am

Hi Andrew
Yes! Yes! Tapas – maybe after we come for your, erm housewarming? And meze is always good too – in fact, any sort of food consisting of lots of little plates gets my vote every time!
Hi Johanna
Yup, there has been a bit of a blogging spurt lately! And as for Robuchon, good thing you warned me in time, now I can get that second mortgage approved ;-)
Dear Angry Australian
Oh dear. Tricky one. Physical thumping couls always result in spillage of your precious glass of Tempranillo (which, as we all know, is the perfect accompaniment to tapas). I think the polite way of dealing with this is to take Shiraz Boy aside for a quiet word so as not to disturb other diners. It’s amazing what a change in attitude you can achieve in just five minutes in a locked room with a corkscrew and a foil cutter.
Best of luck!
Hi Andrew
Exactly! If you don’t like the wine STOP DRINKING IT!! Other people’s children, really…
Hi Constance
You should take your grandma to Brindisa at Borough Market – the tapas are amazing!

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Shaun September 15, 2006 at 2:42 am

Hi Jeanne,
It is always a shame when a chef’s books is so much better – or appears such – than his or her (and, in this case: their) restaurant. I had flipped through the Clarks’ second cookery book thinking I’d get it one day if I had had enough of other books that I have on their region of “expertise”, but perhaps I won’t now given that the dining experience wasn’t lived up to.
I send you best luck for a positive dining experience at your next destination :-D

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Jeanne September 25, 2006 at 11:26 am

Hi Shaun
I had been tempted by the book but never got round to buying it, although I believe Johanna that the book was better than the meal! Maybe they were just having an off night, who knows. Had great experiences the next 2 times I went out – once to Vinoteca and once to Pont de la Tour (the brasserie – not the stratospherically-priced restaurant). Must get round to writing those up….

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Mignon July 31, 2009 at 9:38 pm

Moro is actually Moorish cuisine. Although it had an influence on Spanish cuisine and architecture (Alhambra in Granada), it is more Morrocan in it’s roots.

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valentina June 12, 2010 at 1:04 pm

What a shame. I have been to Moro twice in the space of a couple of years and I have had a lovely meal and service both times. The first time the food was so lovely that it stayed with me for a long time so it was nice to go back and have the same experience. I do hate the fact that you are allocated a 2-hour window to have your meal, but as you well put it that is part of dining in London.

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