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Moro

I’ve been going to, and loving, Moro for more than fifteen years. I had my fiftieth birthday there and if I have a sixtieth it will be there, too.  I love its little brother next door, Morito, and am always happy to sit there, at the counter, eating croquetas, chatting to the chef. I was at Moro again on Friday night and, it seems to me, after all these years, it’s still improving. How can that be?

I love sitting at the bar, despite the high stools being instruments of quick torture. I chat to the barman, or look around at the people at the tables. That’s always fine entertainment, Clerkenwell types next to Shoreditch types. There are subtle differences in beards and shoes. I always feel like I’ve had a good night out after I’ve eaten dinner at Moro. To me it’s fun.

My friend arrives a minute after I do. We’re both a bit squishy and the space at the counter squishes us in a bit, too, and somehow – this is magic, really – there’s a table for two free in the otherwise full room. My friend eats there every week, which may explain it. She flirts with the flirty (and handsome) maître’d, which may suggest another explanation. His beard is more Clerkenwell than Shoreditch, in case you’re interested. Moro would never have anything as French as a maître’d, sacre bleu! It’s ethos is strictly of southern Spain and northern Africa, so I’m not sure what to call him. I learn from translate.google.com that the Spanish for maître’d is maitre, so there.

So we sit at the table, settle in quickly and begin to talk. Even though we have never lacked things to talk about for all the years of our friendship, the surroundings, the conviviality of Moro, makes conversation flow even more smoothly than usual. We talk about all the things that old friends talk about; work and families and holidays, books we’re reading, tv we watch. I’ve nearly finished writing my first novel and I want her to be the first person to read it. Two and a half hours weren’t enough.

We tell the (lovely) waitress the style of wines we like to drink and a minute later two perfect glasses are sitting in front of us. My friend has something cold and white and not-too-dry, and I have something cold and red and soft. Oh it was good. I must one day ask what I was drinking.

We stay almost quiet for a minute to look at the menu. My friend’s restaurant rule is that everyone should have what they want, none of the everyone has to have something different nonsense. Maybe it’s a sign of our compatibility that we choose exactly the same things and enjoy them exactly as much as each other.

The starter is a duck salad with chestnuts, thin slices of carrots and radishes with a dressing of pomegranate molasses. It was sweet and sour and savoury, the three S words that you most want to describe your food. We each take our first taste at the same moment and stop talking to look at each other and go mmm. I could eat it again right now.

Another (lovely) waitress, (honestly, everyone who works at Moro is lovely), brings us each a second glass of wine and our mains. Perfectly, prettily, pink lamb with chickpea fritters that dissolve as soon as you put them in your mouth. The lamb was sensationally good. I’m dribbling as I type. The food at Moro has always been quite butch and full of big flavours. What we ate on Friday was entirely typical of what they have always served. It was no less flavourful, but it was also, somehow, more delicate. It was the best I’ve ever eaten there.

One of the joys of Moro is that at 9 o’clock no one stands by your table tapping their feet and looking at their watch. We eventually left at 10.30, happy bunnies, full bunnies, all-talked-out bunnies, too, everything in our lives improved by our evening together. Fifty quid well spent.

Moro, 34-36 Exmouth Market, London EC1R 4QE
Morito, 32 Exmouth Market, London EC1R 4QE. I wrote about that jewel here.


 

While I was there I hadn’t though I would write this; Moro is so well-established, so well-known. The next day I was going about my business, driving somewhere, and I realised I wanted to write this, but I hadn’t taken any photos – the place is low enough lit that it isn’t easy to get a decent shot in the evening – so I made a detour. I got there just before service had really got going and everyone was happy to let me take pictures of the kitchen – there is a large open window between it and the dining area.

I was introduced to Marianne, the lovely head chef in the blue head scarf in the main photo. I told her what I’d eaten and how much I’d enjoyed it, especially the fritters. She, right there, when she had a million other things to do, began to talk me through the recipe for those fritters. I love the generosity that people who are serious about food so often have. I benefit from it time and again. And, of course, now I love Moro even more, like that is even possible. Thank you to Sam and Sam Clark for giving North London such a wonderful restaurant, and thank you to all of Moro’s staff – chefs, waiters, kps, everyone – for making it such a wonderful place to eat for so long.

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