It's strange how some restaurants pass you by. Maybe it's a function of my need to get to the latest London openings as soon as I can, trailing the Dos Hermanos around like a faithful puppy, albeit one that's fallen foul of a mad professor and a time-machine and is fated to be perpetually two days behind them. But when it's hard enough to keep up with the new openings (and I've missed some high profile - and high ticket - debuts this year), it seems to be even harder to find the time or the excuse to visit one or two established restaurants that I really should have been to by now.
In the last fortnight, though, I've ticked a couple off the list. Last Thursday I went to Eyre Brothers for the first time - more on that tomorrow. And the week before I finally went to Moro - more on that, er, today.
Everyone knows about Moro. Even Janet Street Porter and Frances Barber, who were occupying the sleb tables at the front of house by the time we were leaving this Exmouth Market institution. But I'd never been, so I was delighted when they had an early table available. The fact that a we-need-the-table-back-by-8:45 job was the only option on a blustery midweek night in October speaks volumes for a place that has been turning out well regarded tapas and Moroccan influenced grub for more than a decade.
And it shows. Moro feels exactly like what it is. A restaurant confident in what it does, one that can afford to go through the motions - in the nicest possible way - because those motions have been perfected through countless opportunities to practise.
Soup was good, cauliflower and coriander working very well together.
A salad of iberico ham with sweet chilli was also good, although perhaps lacking a little in punch. Very pretty though.
Partridge with morcilla and lentils. Again, hard to criticise. I was maybe hoping to pick up a bit more of a smoky taste from the kitchen's famous wood burning oven - a criticism Mark also levelled at his lamb - but these were sound enough dishes.
Moroccan egg was a bit of a disappointment, again needing a bit more kick to lift it beyond so-so, and also reflected a surprising lack of choice for veggies.
So overall, an OK meal. Service was very friendly, the room warm and welcoming, the sherry and wine excellent and the food solid without being spectacular, as befits a long-standing fixture of the London dining scene. If nothing else it's inspired me to delve a bit deeper into the Moro East cookbook I got for my birthday earlier this year. And I'll certainly be back to Moro, maybe not tomorrow but hopefully before another eleven years have passed...
Moro, 34-36 Exmouth Market, London EC1R 4QE 020 7833 8336