In celebration of its first annual Seafood Festival, Morito – a fantastic tapas bar on trendy Exmouth Market – held a sherry and seafood tasting event last week. My boyfriend and I were lucky enough to bag ourselves a place on the guest list, and for a paltry £40 were treated to a stream of classic and innovative seafood dishes, accompanied by unlimited sherry and enlightening talks from both a visiting sherry expert and Morito’s manager.
The purported aim of the event – in addition to celebrating the inaugural Seafood Festival – was to overturn any preconceptions the audience may have held about sherry: namely, its reputation as a sticky-sweet beverage for ladies of an advanced age. By presenting the diners with an array of different sherries, paired – in what we were informed is the Spanish tradition – with an assortment of complementing dishes, our hosts hoped to open our minds (and gullets) to this as-yet-unfashionable beverage.
The laidback sister restaurant of neighbouring Moro, Morito boasts a relaxed but lively ambience. The small venue – seating no more than 30 diners – is cosy and familiar, allowing for one-on-one interaction with the team of knowledgeable serving staff; and on the night we visited, the restaurant was buzzing with the chatter of happy diners.
Arriving to our seats (or rather, stools) at the brightly coloured bar, we were welcomed with an ice bucket containing three whole bottles of sherry, a dish of delicious toasted almonds, some interesting canapés (composed of hot peppers, anchovies, olives and pickled onions threaded onto cocktail sticks), and a basket of traditional Spanish bread (dense and chewy), the latter paired with a bottle of excellent olive oil and a selection of different spices for dipping (much more exciting than a pat of butter!).
A few minutes after our arrival, following a brief and informal introduction to the event, the courses began to arrive. The first dish – to be enjoyed alongside the dry, light-coloured fino sherries – took the form of four large, succulent oysters. Unfortunately, I have an unconquerable hatred of oysters, but my boyfriend was in his element, finishing off my portion – and the extra oyster offered by an obliging waitress – with relish. Apparently they were “oceany” with a pleasant “slipperiness” (yum?).
The next dish, prawn tortillitas, was more to my liking. Falling somewhere between a posh prawn toast and a parmesan crisp, these golden brown bubbly wafers of deep fried prawn puree and batter were hot, greasy and delicious.
We then moved on to try some manzanilla sherry: also dry and pale, this has a fresher, more subtle flavour than the fino variety. A beautiful plate of razor clams, piled high with a delicious “salpicon” garnish (tomatoes, red onions, green peppers, vinaigrette) and tiny, flavourful chunks of fried chorizo, was an exquisite accompaniment.
Monkfish liver with chanterelles was the most exotic item on the menu. With a flavour similar to that of a conventional meat pâtés, but with a hint of fishiness, this was served on tasty wedges of toasted panini-esque bread. While monkfish liver may be an acquired taste, it was definitely an interesting culinary experience.
Moving on to glasses of the golden oloroso sherry – darker and nuttier than the earlier varieties – we were presented with little clay pots of a deliciously savoury crab stew, seeped in a rich oloroso and chilli sauce and topped with crackers for dipping.
And then on to my favourite dish of the night – a huge, juicy scallop, cooked in its shell in a gorgeous oloroso and butter jus: further proof of the value of sherry for cooking as well as for drinking.
The final sherry of the night, the Pedro Ximénez was closer to what one might typically expect from this beverage: thick and sweet, with a deep red colour, it came served with hefty slabs of walnut cake (which we were informed was baked by Sam Moro herself). The cake was surprisingly light, with a delicate crumb and a delicious hint of caramelised chewiness to the crusts… although at this point I was too full to manage more than a few bites, to my lasting regret!
The combination of fantastic food with a laidback-yet-lively atmosphere makes Morito the perfect spot to meet with friends for a drink and a bite to eat. I look forward to returning here for the Graze event* on Wednesday 3rd October when, for only £10 a ticket, you can try dishes from six of Exmouth Market’s best restaurants (Morito, Moro, Caravan, Bincho, La Porchetta, and Medcalf).
Morito, Exmouth Market
32 Exmouth Market, London, EC1R 4QE
Booking available HERE
*Part of the London Restaurant Festival, which runs from the 1st to the 15th of October
Morito are continuing the festival for another week, serving the seafood festival menu (£35 for five courses and five half glasses of sherry) alongside their usual tapas menu.