We wanted to see the Rain Room at the Barbican. It’s a cool-sounding installation by Random International (which sounds like a pop group) that involves a room that rains around you but somehow doesn’t rain on you. Apparently you can walk around inside this vast rain sculpture and not get wet. I say apparently because we didn’t actually get to see it. By the time we got to the Barbican there was a queue like an execution and the nice staff cheerfully told us it would take about three and a half hours to get to the front. Yeah. Three and a half hours. I’m not committed enough to many things to wait that long and certainly not an art piece that, however neat sounding, would take less than three and a half minutes to experience. So we decided to come back on a Tuesday morning in January when the fuss has died down and instead went for lunch.
The neighbourhood around the Barbican isn’t great for eating. Or, if it is, I don’t know about it. But we were heading back toward central London anyway, so we wended our way to Moro, just off Farringdon Road. I went to Moro years ago, right when its fame was at its height and everyone was starting to talk about Spanish food as the next big thing. I was disappointed that time with food that was perfectly nice but not remotely exciting. This time, though, I felt like the restaurant has settled into a groove as a relaxed space with food that mixes some rich culinary traditions but doesn’t have to work too hard at being inventive. I don’t ultimately think that Spanish food, per se, is all that radical. The mix of Spanish and Muslim Mediterranean cuisines is very appealing to me, though, and the restaurant seems more chill without all the weight of Spanish food frenzy on its shoulders.
Since there isn’t a dedicated lunch menu we mixed and matched from the evening one. Above is a starter of roasted quail with braised lettuce and muhammara. (Can you say muhammara without going here in your head?) I’ve been a big fan of this Syrian-Lebanese red pepper, walnut and chili spread since I first had it on Atlantic Ave in Brooklyn, and though Moro’s version is a bit lighter on the pomegranate molasses than I might prefer, it’s a perfect foil to juicy roast quail and tender lettuce. I happily took the bits of quail that Mr Lemur refused to eat with his hands and spend happy minutes removing meat from its little bones.
More Mr Lemur’s taste was this salad of blood sausage, butifarra, roast apples and watercress. It was the perfect autumn plate, full of rich caramelised flavours and astringent greens. It felt substantial and yet relatively light.
We decided to share a main course, which the staff were fine with and provided sharing plates. It’s really lucky we went that route because our main was enormous, heaving with giant slabs of pork. It was another orchestra of autumnal notes, with wood-roasted pork, roasted red and green Spanish peppers and brown lentils, all topped with crispy pork skin and romesco sauce. This was utterly delicious and leagues more interesting than the food I ate here before. The meat was succulent and the wood-roasting gave the peppers a pleasing hint of smokiness. The lentils were deeply warming and the whole thing was really brought alive by the romesco. Like muhammara, it’s another sauce made from ground nuts and chilies, but they taste quite different. This romesco was hazelnutty and very creamy. I imagine it’s made with olive oil but it tasted almost buttery. Despite having just the one main course, we were far too stuffed for dessert – a shame, since Moro’s yoghurt cake is a thing of great beauty. Still, our lunch made up for the lack of art and reminded me of how good Spanish food can be.
Moro, 34-36 Exmouth Market, London EC1R 4QE