There are some restaurants that seem to be on your 'to try' list for a felt eternity. Recommended by reliable sources ( i.e. Time Out or fellow foodie friends) you always want to try the place yet never actually manage for some obscure reason.
Morito is exactly such a place, its location in the middle of Exmouth Market, a wonderful pedestrianised street full of restaurant gems, somehow not quite east nor quite central enough to make it a convenient meeting point and it's no booking policy and limited seating not exactly appealing if you want to eat at any time other than 6pm on a Monday. However Morito's famed execution of classic Spanish tapas with Middle eastern twist proved too hard to resist especially as I had heard it to be of a similar standard to my beloved Honey & Co.
So I made the effort a Saturday night not too long ago and, though we had to dine a little early and were squeezed in a little tight right next to the front door, overlooking too a rather unfortunately placed building site, it all didn't matter as the food proved exceptional. From Spanish tapas staples such as patatas bravas ( which were executed perfectly with just the right mix of tangy tomato sauce and creamy aioli on top of crisp fried potato chunks) and tortilla to more Middle Eastern leaning dishes such as fried chickpeas, pumpkin and tahini yogurt or my personal stand out dish crispy aubergine with whipped feta and date molasses, every of the small dishes we shared was full of unexpected flavours, surprisingly light yet complex. Veggie choices were aplenty, far from an afterthought on the menu, and meant that on this occasion there was no need to fill up on side dishes so that once everything was polished off we were left satisfied yet not overly full, using the excellent flat bread served with the tapas to soak up any left over juices.
Dessert was a little disappointing but then for tapas style dining it is never to be a true focal point - the chefs too busy perhaps for intricate patisserie, the malaga raisin ice cream we shared fine but for me a little too boozy and overall unspectacular. That is the beauty however of being in a very foodie location- not quite done with the evening we commenced to have one last 'dessert' cocktail at Caravan a few doors up. Famed of course for roasting some seriously good coffee, we couldn't help but order a couple espresso martinis, martinis that couldn't have provided a better caffeine kick to end an evening full of culinary discoveries which perhaps I had been a little too lazy to make of late.
Was it worth it? Yes- go to Morito and order until there is no more space for plates even if you have to make a little break away from your usual eating out habits. It won't disappoint.
THE EASY PICNIC SPREADAs someone that will always pick lots of little dishes with lots of different flavours over one ( even if good) big main, a picnic was the perfect choice of dinner for entertaining a friend this weekend. This being England and March it may have taken place indoors with my less than pretty carpet rather than grass as our turf but nonetheless turned out extremely tasty and was super easy to prepare, containing enough fresh veg and omega three from the smoked salmon ( ours was from the Albion deli counter and at £6 a real steal) to balance out the ooey gooey Camembert we also baked. Below a few simple ideas if you are planning an indoor or outdoor picnic but as is the beauty with this sort of meal you can pretty much free style and add whatever you like! Though no gourmet foo,d for me this kind of fare, served with a chilled bottle of prosecco can on most occasions match most restaurants no matter the weather.
Sweet Potato Fries- I am a massive sweet potato fan ( they in fact star in my hangover cure roast veg after every night out) and have been trying to recreate the rather addictive fry version I had at Vegetarian restaurant Mildred's for years. I may have finally found it with this recipe. Serve with sour cream and plenty of sea salt and you won't be returning to normal potatoes in a while.
Baked Camembert - There is nothing quite as good as dipping some good bread into an oozing pot of cheese and though tasting utterly luxurious and gluttonous couldn't be much simpler to do. Pierce the Camembert a few times with a knife, stick in some garlic cloves for that extra something and bake at a high temperature in the oven for 10 minutes. Particularly delicious with rosemary bread.
Tomato Salad - This is my simple and quick, yet pretty delicious take on the middle Eastern Tabbouleh dish. The original version calls for bulgar wheat but having never been a massive fan of it, my version leaves it out and combines quartered tomatoes and red onions with finely chopped mint and parsley ( and plenty of it to give it zing), finished off with lemon juice, olive and salt. All mixed up this salad is full of flavour and immediately brings a bit of colour and summer feeling to any spread yet is so simple to make that there is really no excuse to ever serve up dull salads.
Courgette Fries- I may still be debating whether to get a spiralizer to fulfil my dreams of courgetti (well not really a debate more trying to rationalise spending £30 on something that makes vegetables look fancy) but that hasn't stopped me in trying to find other tasty recipes involving the humble courgette. They may ended up look a little messy but, coated in parmesan and breadcrumbs, these thick courgette fries were still pretty amazing! Get the recipe here and serve with tomato and chilli chutney.
The Dessert Platter - While I was in charge of the savoury cooking, my friend Ella, manager of the lovely Vintage store on Brick Lane was in charge of desserts and this being a Sunday was able to use the market to bring us some real treats from a French lady selling her baked goods there every weekend. From the millefeuille, to the lemon tart ( which I am usually not a fan of whatsoever) to the vanilla macaroons that rivalled Laduree, this was fantastically authentic and the perfect and slightly naughty way to finish our picnic!
Additions- Get some good smoked salmon and prawns as well as one of my nibble staples olives! Bread should be a decent quality as well and avoid ( at least in my opinion) any ready packaged dips and 'salads' intended for picnics - always taste of supermarket and most of the time pretty easy to make at home!
Have you got any secret salad concoctions worth adding to my next spread?
SUSHI & COCKTAILS AT SALMONTINI
Finding good sushi in London is far from easy. I tend to avoid the mass produced and for me far from authentic or fresh ready packed boxes you get from Itsu and Wasabi and though I have found a few very good takeaway options like Atari-Ya I had till now struggled to find a place that served good sushi AND had a nice eating environment. Salmontini managed just that, combining essentially two of my favourite things - sushi and cocktails and doing so pretty darn well. With a loungy and relaxed vibe you wouldn't believe that you are actually in the middle of Belgravia and I loved the fact that you could sip a perfectly executed classic cocktail ( my espresso Martini was faultless) whilst nibbling on some absolutely incredible sushi, especially as I think sushi is best as a light meal with a every flavour savoured than something to simply fill you up. Salmontini is a place to take someone when you want to impress, the faultless presentation and great services the finishing touch to a thoroughly enjoyable dining experience featuring probably the best sushi I have had in London to date.