I haven't done one of these in ages, despite living in London, home of some of the best food in the world. I guess I have been too busy gorging on food to actually sit down and right about it. However, I feel spurred into action by a recent meal. This is necessarily going to be a two part post; part one, a largely complimentary review of a specific restaurant and, part two, a general rant about London restaurant seating policies. Here we go...
I've been lucky enough to sample Sam and Sam Clark's fare on two different street food occasions at Long Table and Feast. It was heavenly. It was £5 a pop of mouth-joy. It filled me with longing to visit their signature restaurant Moro. And I will one day but for now it is rather out of my price range. So, instead, for a special occasion on Friday we went to Morito, their little sister bar/tapas restaurant.
Once we had finally got in (more on that later) it was a lot of fun. It is a tiny space packed, somehow, with about forty covers. Pairs are seated at the bar on rather precarious stools and food is served almost instantaneously. You can watch the chefs and waiting staff navigating the very limited spare artfully, sliding scallops onto the grill and twisting plates over the heads of customers.
We had sherry cocktails which are just an excellent idea - mine had sherry, vermouth and orange bitters, R's had sherry, mint and lemonade. Definitely need to try that at home. We ordered patatas bravas and jamon Iberico and quails' eggs with cumin and salt and spiced lamb with aubergine and scallops in a sherry vinegar butter sauce and warm red peppers with preserved lemons and capers... I do love small plates, they can end up being expensive but they mean that you can eat many things. The quails' eggs were the weak spot for me but then hard boiled eggs freak me out so that is probably to be expected. Everything else was excellent. Admittedly there could have been more jamon for the price but what there was was meaty and delicious and made me want to sprint back to Madrid and the hilariously named Museo de Jamon (not actually a museum). Jamon Iberico over Parma ham, I would say. The patatas bravas were more rustic and deconstructed than I'm used to but still addictive. The lamb was my idea of heaven - dry, shredded, spiced lamb on a bed of smokey, puréed aubergine topped with yoghurt and pomegranate seeds and pine nuts and mint. It was dreamy.
It took us two hours to get seats for dinner because they don't take bookings. And by seats I mean bar stools. TWO HOURS. Just let that marinate. Yes, we went off to the pub and had drinks and found ourselves snacks and came back and sat outside on a cold November night and had more drinks and were finally let in. We managed to amuse ourselves but two hours is too long to wait for anything except perhaps a flight. I actually feel like a bit of a sap for having putting up with it but we really wanted to try the restaurant and we're deeply stubborn and we didn't know the area well enough to wander off and guarantee finding a really great alternative meal. Also, it got to the point where we had waited so long that we felt we couldn't give up - it became a battle of wills. I'm not sure who won, I ate delicious food but I was cold, starving and grouchy by the time I fnally got to it. Sadly it means I will not being going back to Morito or wholeheartedly recommending it to anyone.
It seems unfair to point the blame squarely at Morito. They were just the proverbial stick that broke my back. They are simply symptomatic of an increasingly common London restaurant policy that drives me up the flipping wall - they do not take bookings. It drives me to distraction. There are so many places I want to eat but can't go to because I am unprepared to wait for more than 45 minutes. That seems like a really long time to me, anything more is verging on the ridiculous, but it isn't enough. I visited and loved Pitt Cue back when I could get a weekday lunchtime off but I tried to take a friend there the other week and was told it would be at least an hour's wait and if we weren't there when summoned then they would give our place away. My parents occasionally come to London to visit me and I want to take them to great places for dinner but they don't have the patience or the energy for a non-bookings restaurant, which seems to be all the restaurants (except you Bocca di Lupo - I love you), they and I miss out on some of the best food this city has to offer.
I don't get it. What is gained by jettisoning bookings?? Please tell me. Does it somehow cost money to take bookings? Is it the sense of spontaneity and democracy? Because that is not a thing. There is nothing spontaneous about standing around in the drizzle for an hour...
Anyway, rant over. To summarise, the food at Morito is excellent but I hate endless queues.