I first discovered the joy of Morito in Exmouth Market last year, and have been in love ever since. When I heard a few weeks ago that a second Morito was being opened in Hackney Road I was desperate to go, and so this week my boyfriend Josh and I made the trip in a glorious celebration of my first payday.
This second Morito is another glorious Spanish-with-a-bit-of-Greek tapas affair, and is husband and wife team Sam and Sam Clark’s third restaurant. The menu is similar to the Exmouth Market version – they both change every day, which makes comparison a little difficult – but the main difference is the increase in vegetarian recipes. The ‘vegetables’ section is now the longest part of the menu, and above meat and fish, much to my delight! Unlike its Exmouth Market cousin you can also book in advance (hurrah!), but there are also plenty of places at the bar for walk-ins. It’s also much larger than the original, with a very different atmosphere: the space is airy and open, with stylish, crisp blue interior and grand marble bars. It feels much more fancy and luxurious; a far cry from the cosy-bordering-on-cramped, casual style of Exmouth Market.
The menu itself, as I have mentioned, is very exciting. I do love that both Morito menus change all the time – it keeps everything so fresh and seasonal, and means you have the opportunity to try wonderful new things with every visit. The Exmouth Market menu is announced each day on their Twitter page: there isn’t currently a copy of the Hackney road menu online, though I’m told there will be soon once the website is finalised. The only criticism I do have of the menu is that it lacks description, and also gives no indication as to which dishes are suitable for those with dietary requirements: not so much of a problem for me now with the expanded ‘vegetables’ section, though it does make choosing any ‘para picar’ (starters) quite difficult, but I imagine it would be more tricky for anyone looking for gluten- or dairy-free items. The staff are very friendly, though, and did ask us if we had any questions about the menu when we ordered drinks (cava pomegranate, £8), so I’m sure they’d be happy to help.
The first of our dishes to arrive was ‘fried aubergine, date molasses, feta’ (£7): a heap of crisp, light aubergine strips topped with whipped, creamy feta, sticky date molasses and shredded mint leaves. This is my favourite dish from Exmouth Market, so I was very pleased to find it on the menu here, and although the recipe has been tweaked it did not disappoint. From here on in we ventured into the unknown, though: next to arrive was ‘green leaves, sesame brittle and dried figs’ (£4.50). This was, as expected, a mound of leaves (though if I’m being picky, not all of them were green!) dotted with sliced dried figs and shards of sesame brittle, drizzled with a fresh, sharp dressing. I loved the figs, and would honestly have liked more of them. The sesame brittle was a nice idea, but to my mind it was too much: the shards were large and few, and dominated any mouthfuls they were part of.
Next to arrive were Josh’s meat dishes – ‘fried rabbit, rosemary, muscatel vinegar’ (£7.50), along with ‘charcoal grilled lamb chops, paprika and anchovy butter’ (£4.50 per chop). It was his first foray into eating rabbit, and he was impressed; the lamb chops went down well, too. Last (but certainly not least) to arrive was the ‘cheese fritters, Cretan thyme honey’ (£6), which divided me and Josh (perhaps even more than the meat!). He wasn’t keen, but I loved them – delicate, deep-fried, slightly tangy cheese covered in nutty black and white sesame seeds and drizzled with slightly savoury honey. They certainly hit the spot, and went well with my salad, too.
Dessert was as exciting as the mains: I had ‘filo, gum mastic labneh, rhubarb’ (£7), which I’d imagined to be slightly baklava-esque, but it was much more deconstructed, and much less sweet. To start with I was a little unsure – I don’t usually have a very sweet tooth, but felt it would really benefit from a drizzle of honey. The more I ate though, the more I appreciated the occasional, subtle sweetness of the rhubarb, and I happily cleared my plate! Josh was initially disappointed by the lack of chocolate mousse (we both had that the last time we were at Exmouth Market), but happily demolished ‘mango and yoghurt ice cream’ (£6), which was beautifully vivid – both in flavour and appearance – with bright sprinkles of pomegranate seeds and ground pistachio.
Overall, we were very happy customers. Our bill came to £65 (including service), so it isn’t a cheap evening, but it’s a wonderful treat for a special occasion. I can’t wait to return again, and see what else is on the menu.