It has gone from Spanish innovator to institution. Moro, the Exmouth market creation of Samuel and Samantha Clark, continues to pack in the punters every night. They are young and old, mainly London locals but with a smattering of tourists researched enough to break off the beaten path. So popular, is Moro in fact, it is intimidating to review, even blind, lest a hoard of Morolists besiege me.
Moro has weathered its near 20 year life well since opening in 1997. It is still predominantly Spanish with North African influences, much like Spain itself. Its ingredient-driven menu bristles with contemporaneousness like sustainably harvested fish (Skrei cod), za’atar salad, and rose harissa. Its strong line in sherries may have singularly kept the wine alive in England during a time when its old drinkers died off and zero marketing induced fewer new ones to start. The Spanish cheese collection (and it is a great that it exists at all, given how rare cheese plates are in Spanish restaurants) remains fresh and is admirably paired with membrillo.
The currency is maintained by weekly menu updates, so I describe specific dishes with a real risk that they will be gone when you check in. With that caveat, we recommend the Trinxat starter (£8.50) in which black foot pancetta sits draped conspicuously but incongruously across the top. This meat-enhanced bubble and squeak is a filling, earthy treat on a cold night. I endorse the recommended Tio Diego Amontillado (£6/100ml) which delivers a nutty accent to the potato and cabbage. The cauliflower, coconut, and cumin soup with coriander, chilli butter and pine nuts (£7.50) is also delicious. Just lightly flavoured with the bruiser-spice cumin to let the other ingredients come through and suffused with pine nuts for textural interest.
Our shared main, wood-roasted lemon sole with broccoli and warm lentil, orange and lemon segments and green chilli salad (£24), was indeed large enough for two. Beautifully prepared, prone across a large plate, the flesh barely tugged back when pulled off the bone. First the top, then the bottom, acceded to our picking. Every tasty mouthful was buried with the vegetables and salad with bliss.
The wine list has lots of unusual and well-chosen Spanish wines to go with this food. A glass of Godello from Galicia was bright, with citrus and minerally notes and served us well accompanying the food choices above. The aforementioned sherry selection is one of the best in town and warrants an enquiry to the waitstaff for help in selection.
Moro is busy, so try to arrive early or late, or be prepared to wait. In richly-rewarding Exmouth Market it is worth it.