I love people who think different and just go for it.
When Sam & Sam Clarke (Samantha and Samuel, husband and wife) had been working at the iconic River Café in west London (other alumni include Jamie Oliver, Theo Randall and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall) for a few years, they started thinking of opening something of their own. The obvious choice would be to continue in the vein of The River Café: high quality Italian food focusing on fresh ingredients. But the Clarkes had something different in mind. They wanted to go their own way.
So they saved up some money and traveled around Spain for months. Upon returning to London they opened Moro in London’s Exmouth Market, not an obvious location in the mid-1990s. The name was a play on the inspiration for the restaurant: the food traditions of the moors, the muslim inhabitants in medieval Spain, Portugal and North Africa. Long before Ottolenghi, long before tapas was mainstream and while hummus still had the connotation of cheap student food, Moro combined the best flavours of the Spanish, north African and Arab kitchen to marvellous effect.
Needless to say, though in an at the time against all odds sort of way, the restaurant was a huge success. Before long, it was the place to go to for anybody within food – Nigel Slater and Nigella Lawson were among the first regulars. Today, twenty years later, Moro and its younger tapas sibling Morito are perhaps not as exotice as they might have appeared back then – many have followed suit and London is now teeming with similar minded restaurants. The street has become one of London’s most trendy and exciting streets with more good restaurants joining alongside numerous cafés and independent boutiques. And Moro is still going strong, often fully booked weeks in advance, though they keep seats at the bar for pop-in. And there’s always Morito next door. I was fortunate enough to visit both on a number of occations before leaving London last year.
Moro The Cookbook was released in 2001 and is one of the cookbooks that has helped shape my cooking the most.
The restaurant cookbook was released in 2001 and is one of the cookbooks that has helped shape my cooking the most. Not only is the book full of both traditional and more modern variations I’d never seen before – it also opened my eyes to the fact that exciting food like this could actually be fairly easy to make. In this book, you’ll find few, if any, fancy techniques, complicated methods or use of special equipment. There are no emulsions, sauces that can split or soufflés destined to collapse at the hands of happy amateurs. Sure, some of the recipes may take some time, others require a bit of effort in sourcing the right ingredients. But I’d venture that any half decent home cook can make the dishes in this book at a standard which wouldn’t be out of place at a restaurant.
If you’re not among those who follow recipes from A to Z there’s still plenty of inspiration to find in this book, whether you’re looking for new combinations (like the seared sirloin salad with barley, grapes and sumac), recipes for simple but absolutely delicious sauces and dressings (I’m yet to meet the person who doesn’t love Moro’s pomegranate dressing). And even though the texts are short, they are to the point and highly educative, whether it’s talking about the origins of a dish, what makes it special or what to keep in mind when it comes to specific ingredients or methods.
The fact that the book is still on sale 15 years after its release says a lot: this is a classic.