Some of us are a cursed sub-species of humanity: the people who always, always manage to order the wrong meal in restaurants. If the speciality is the steak, we’ll have chosen the risotto. I once went to a sushi restaurant and ended up bemused as a bowl of pork and rice stared back at me. The scintillating, sumptuous strips of moist fish and gooey cakes of gloopy rice seemed all the more enticing as my delighted companions gobbled them down.
The same fate befell me at Moro – but at least it was the right environment in which to soak up my failure. It had an ambience that bubbled, like a lava lamp, with chilled conversation; while outside, Exmouth Market presented a lively street of lovely cafes, bars, street vendors galore and market stalls.
Sadly, my meal fell down as soon as I started making decisions. I opted not to go for a glass of wine, although I clearly could have had a cheeky one at lunchtime. And I didn’t have a starter – something I now regret. The seared pigeon breast with garlic purée and watercress sounds sumptuous; the grilled rabbit also sounds great, as does the pinto bean, radish and tomato salad.
Yet while Moro has a sterling reputation, I found my main course a little disappointing. I plumped for wood-roasted pork with peppers, onions, oregano and pine nuts. The vegetables were delicious: fresh, moist, clean and eminently edible. The pork itself was also good, with fairly crispy crackling, but it seemed to lack something. The vibrancy of Exmouth Market was everywhere but on my plate.
My pal picked the wood-roasted sea bass with fried cucumber, dill yoghurt and saffron chick peas. When it first arrived, she expressed regret at choosing the chick peas. However, once tasted, their creamy, smooth texture changed her mind. Although the saffron smack was faint, the peas were a great complement to the “beautifully cooked” fish. Overall, though, she too found her meal – especially the sauce – a little bland. With good surroundings (and reviews) come high expectations. We must have picked the wrong meals; I hope there’s a crack team of MIT geneticists working working on the problem.
It must be said, the serving staff were excellent; and it’s tricky to be attentive but not irritating. They were prompt whenever we needed something, and almost persuaded me to fill my boots (and tum) with a pudding. Instead, I downed an average espresso.
This joint is pricey: the pork costs £18.50, and the sea bass £21 – the most expensive lunch time option. I didn’t pay for the meal (hooray), but I imagine it was a costly one.
In conclusion, Exmouth Market? Definitely. Moro? Maybe not. Cheeky glass of wine? Of course! Me choosing from the menu? Best pick someone from another sub-species.