Morito Hackney Road

grilled squid in olive oil and rustic bread

Morito is 1 of those spots I’ve heard really great things about from many people so when looking for a fab birthday brunch/lunch spot for a friend’s birthday I decided this was the time to dive in. The original restaurant is in Exmouth Market but the Hackney Road spot is known for being a beautifully busy hub at the weekend as it’s a stone's throw from Columbia Road Flower Market et al.

The setting is indeed gorgeous, floor to ceiling windows frame the front of the restaurant & all of the outside tables were occupied when we arrived despite it being a mediocre late September morning. Inside the space is airy, bright & centred around a circular bar with counter seating. Food pretty much comes flying continuously passed - mountains of freshly baked bread, sizzling eggs, rainbow veg, dips & everything you can imagine would set your senses a tingle with salivary inducing anticipation.

The Food

Right so I have many lovely things to say but also a couple of slight iffy issues. Before going onto these I will say that I wholly support the abundance of vegetable centric dishes on their menu, I think it's a brilliant move to really celebrate beautiful, seasonal produce, & in this tapas style format it works wonderfully. My slight stickling point however is that everything was literally drowning in oil, great olive oil I'm sure, but actually spilling off every plate is just too much for me. By the end of the meal it wasn't just me who commented on this either, the friends I was eating with did say they felt a little overdone with the fat content. I entirely see that the idea is that this would all become wonderfully soaked up by their incredible homemade breads, however as a gluten free diner I didn't have this choice as there was no GF bread/carb alternative.

Moving on from this however I do have to touch on the sardines we had, my god they were delicious! The grilled squid I could've taken or left, it wasn't particularly flavoursome or tender, in fact it was quite chewy, & out of everything we ordered the limp pile of dressed rocket on the side was a bit 'meh'. The apricot harissa again didn't really hit any stratospheric notes & when I order a harissa I really want to get all the wonderful layers of flavour from the ingredients.

In terms of take homes that we all really enjoyed - the padron peppers were perfect, super hot, cooked to perfection & that brilliant mix of gentle spiciness with the random roulette one that kicks you in the back of the teeth it's so hot! The roasted beetroot dish with red onions was also to die for, & for those who eat gluten & dairy the labneh with crispy chickpeas was a stand out too.

From an allergen friendly perspective it wasn't brilliant but it wasn't awful, the protein choices were somewhat limited due to marinades, & I wasn't wholly comfortable in terms of the cross contamination side of things with the open bread oven within sprinkling distance of the prep kitchen. But I can see the appeal & although I don't think I would rush back I wouldn't be averse to going again to see what the evening menu is like if a friend were to suggest it.

The Drink

Most of us went alcohol free in our choices & they have a fab selection of low sugar mocktails that we really enjoyed. The cucumber ice was a highlight – super refreshing, punchy from chilli & then with just an undertone of mellow sweetness from a touch of apple. Totally brill. The Bloody Sherry was also a popular option, the combination of the heady aromatic note of the amontillado with the salty caper & earthy sweet tomato juice really coming together well. Hat’s off to the creative mind behind this menu, it’s exciting, it’s new, & it works.

The Verdict

The vibe is a full 5 star & the service is brilliant. A wonderfully friendly, busy, buzzy spot to visit, & if put together well this is very much somewhere you can eat well whilst eating really well. Just be aware of those overly abundant levels of oil, try to pick unsauced dishes + 1-2 dips to keep this balance in check.

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