‘It’ll be an hour wait I’m afraid,’ I heard as I entered the new Morito tapas joint on Hackney Road.
Just opened two weeks ago, this spot is already pulling in scores of diners. The space, complete with raw concrete ceilings and funky strip lighting, is bright, airy and relaxed. We took a seat around the large central marble-topped bar, where we could watch the chefs rustling up mouth-watering morsels in the open-plan kitchen behind us.
Morito Hackney is the third opening from husband and wife duo Samuel and Samantha Clark, who opened their first North African-inspired eatery on Exmouth market, Islington, in 1997.
It proved tricky to pick something from the menu with so many delectable dishes whizzing past us but finally we settled on a selection of plates. First up we tried some melt-in-the-mouth cheese fritters, dusted with some sesame seeds. Complementing the neatly arranged little nibbles, were colorful pieces of crockery. Azure-blue and terracotta glazed dishes helped transport us from the concrete streets of Hackney to a sun-splashed spot somewhere on the Sahara.
Getting in the holiday mood, we ordered a classic negroni and glass of house cava from Valencia.
After hovering up the honey-drizzled cheese nibbles, we feasted on a spread of meat, fish and salad creations. Grilled octopus on a bed of mashed lentils, quail dusted with pomegranate and a delicate pile of pork belly kept us busy for a good time, while more people could be seen queuing up at the door.
On the salad front, we opted for a cocktail of beetroot and walnut, with a separate order of avocado, tomato and coriander.
Everything tasted divine, with all of the flavours delicately balanced. The crisp pork belly and succulent octopus slices proved to be our favourite. The breadbasket also deserves a mention, with a moreish mixture of fresh loaf and baked flat breads finished with spicy oil.
I got talking to a man dining alone next to me who had an appetizing dish of meat, cheese and salad. We couldn’t manage anything more to eat but his choice definitely looked like something to order next time.
‘I’ve just been to the gym and wanted something simple, this is what they suggested and it’s great,’ he explained as he mopped up some oil with a torn piece of flat bread.
The menu at Morito, both the one on Exmouth market and in Hackney, changes daily so it’s not guaranteed that the same options will be there next time but the general theme stays the same; fresh ingredients, spices, oils and an injection of the exotic.
We were offered dessert but we were feeling just right and didn’t want tipping over the edge. Things to expect on the sweets list include things such as Malaga raisin ice cream, almond brittle and a trio of cheeses.
Prices at Morito range from £1.50 to £9.50, making it as equally satisfying for your wallet as it is for your stomach.
So if you’re looking for a relaxed meal in the Hackney area get down to Morito now – but to avoid joining the queue it’s recommended to book before you dine.
195 Hackney Road
For more information and to book, visit: www.moritohackneyroad.co.uk or call: 020 7278 7007