Friday, 21 December 2012

Moro - it's a little bit Moorish...

 Exmouth Market, home to the fabulous Moro

I can't say enough good things about Moro: The cookbooks! The lunch-time stall on Exmouth Market! Sister restaurant Morito! And then there's the place itself. With a monthly-changing menu of delicious Moorish cuisine (think charcoal grilled fish and meat dishes, paired with classic Mediterranean ingredients - chickpeas, aubergine, pomegranate and garlic all feature heavily), Moro is hands-down one of the best restaurants in North London. I visited with my mum and brother last week and was once again impressed with just how good the food there is - beautiful ingredients, perfect preparation and fantastic flavour combinations coming together in some truly memorable dishes.

I apologise in advance for the rubbish photos - blame the atmospherically dim lighting!

To start, I had the hummus and aubergine puree with spiced lamb, pinenuts and pomegranate seeds. Served with a soft, deliciously doughy flatbread (perfect for dipping), the combination of slow-cooked lamb, golden pinenuts and sweet pomegranate seeds with the chunky hummus and baba ganoush was truly fantastic.

It reminded me a bit of one of my favourite dishes from Moro's lunchtime stall on Exmouth Market, the spiced lamb wrap (a soft flatbread is topped with a smear of hummus, a sprinkling of incredibly fluffy coucous, and a generous helping of slow cooked spiced lamb, before being finished off with salad, chilli flakes, and  a deliciously garlicky alioli £5 it's a steal so if you ever get the chance, I definitely recommed checking out the Moro stall on your lunchbreak!).

My mum opted for the charcoal grilled squid, which was also extremely good. The plump cylinders of squid were incredibly tender, their delicate flavour enhanced by a pleasant smokiness from the grill and the warm spiciness of the Harissa.

Chicory with toasted hazelnuts and blue cheese sauce

My brother shocked us all by plumping for the vegetarian option: braised chicory with a Picos de Europa sauce and hazelnuts. The blue cheese sauce was a bit strong for my liking, but if you're a fan of the smelly stuff, the combination of bitter chicory, creamy sauce, and toasted hazelnuts could be a winning one.

I really struggled to pick from the tempting list of main courses. I knew from previous experience that Moro does fish exceptionally well (charcoal grilled sea bass served with okra, aubergines and pomegranate seeds, and drizzled with a gorgeous saffron-yohurt sauce was the highlight of my previous visit), but I also love their lamb dishes, and the duck fattee sounded delicious too...

Gorgeous wood-roasted sea bass

In the end I decided to go with the sea bass again, this time paired with garlic, crispy capers and slow-cooked fennel. The fish was as good as I remembered, flesh so tender as to be almost buttery, with a crisp golden skin and a lovely hint of smokiness. Luckily (and perhaps somewhat surprisingly) the strong accompanying ingredients didn't take over the dish, leaving centre stage to the delicious seabass.

Mum went for the charcoal grilled lamb, which was served with farika (a grain often used as an alternative to rice in Middle Eastern cooking), a hot mint sauce, and the most delicious leeks I've ever tasted, while my brother opted for the wood roasted pork, which came with roasted vegetables and a lovely, slightly sweet quince alioli.

Then it was on to dessert (the food at Moro is pretty light, so there's always room for something sweet afterwards!). I ordered the Malaga raisin ice cream, which was fantastic: a scoop of creamy ice-cream scattered with plump raisins and drenched in rum - a delicious interpretation of this classic flavour combination.

Mum went for the sherry trifle. Served in a flat clay dish, this was a slightly Mediterranean take on the traditional English dessert. The fruit and sponge layer was seeped in a lovely sherry (Moro and Morito are both big advocates of this slightly unfashionable spirit, as attested by the impressive list of sherries on the menu and the recent sherry tasting event at Morito), and topped with whipped cream and tasty flaked almonds.

My brother had the dark chocolate and apricot tart. Accompanied with a yoghurt sauce, this was a very 'grown-up' dessert - bitter chocolate, tangy apricot and tart yoghurt combining in an intense but satisfying close to the meal.

Moro on Urbanspoon Square Meal