The rhythm is relentless. We Brits, it seems, just can’t get enough of those tasty Spanish morsels that come under the ever-expanding umbrella of tapas. Another day, or let’s say, another week, and a new tapas bar opens. And they’re not always Spanish, as other nationalities have leapt on the bandwagon, but the best are, in my opinion, straight from the Iberian peninsula – but then I’m biased.
Last night I went to Brindisa’s latest outpost, Morada, which opened a few days ago, this time in So-Soho (aka South Soho). Rupert Street is an odd address, with strip joints at one end, the teeming masses of Leicester Square at the other, and the traffic-jam of Chinatown’s noodle-bars just behind. Not exactly posh, but Morada should soon change that, as for this, their fifth tapas restaurant, the Brindisa group has changed tack. Here they’ve conjured up a dark, stylish, moody look that should lure an endless stream of hungry punters – if they can find the restaurant that is. What is it with these places with barely a legible name?
Inside, the style-conscious bar-restaurant has been cleverly designed to completely surround the square, open kitchen. So the poor cooks (at least 10 of them) really can’t slip up as every move, chop-chop or dish is under permanent scrutiny. You can sit on stools at the bar for a real close-up, at high tables for two around the edge, or settle into large, regular tables at the back. That’s not a bad idea as it keeps any large, noisy groups far from more muted couples or small groups.
Hams and garlands of dried peppers dangle artfully along the front of this active area – so watch your head. And I liked the cool, understated nod to Andalucian tiles on the steps and floor. A team of charming young Spanish women zipped around this dimly-lit space, sometimes overly keen to whip away a plate (No! we cried, give us bread to mop up the divine olive-oil). sometimes with English that had just come off the plane. But they were chirpy, attentive and, as always with the Spanish, genuine. No automatons here.
Foodwise Morada kept up a pretty high standard, something I’ve come to expect over Brindisa’s 25 years of existence. I first came across it in the mid 1990s as a deli in Exmouth Market, Clerkenwell, right next to Moro (another 1990s veteran that maintains exceptional standards). I was living close by and having just published my Spanish food book New Tapas (now revamped as Real Tapas), was overjoyed to have this local gastro shop full of jamon and other Iberian wonders. Since then they’ve gone from strength to strength, starting their restaurant group in 2004.
So, back to Morada, where the USP is all about roasted meats, as in asador. We kicked off with some plump, glossy Cantabrian anchovies, succulent but limited in number (2) for £6.50. Beside them came classic pimientos de Padron (£5.70), abundant, firm and flakily salted – 9 out of 10, as they could probably have done with a minute or so more in the pan. OK, nit-picking.
I was interested in the wrinkled potatoes with mojo, a Canary Island speciality that I’ve never come across in London. Along came the plate of mini potatoes of different hues, sitting in dollops of spicy mojo picon and mojo verde – both sauces absolutely divine. Sadly the potatoes weren’t wrinkled (not roasted perhaps?) nor did they have the requisite white glaze from the salted cooking water, but they were perfectly tender and demolished in minutes. Also cheap £4.25 – totting up 8/10.
As main courses we’d ordered the suquet (£15) of salt cod with calçot, and a salivating-inducing stew of pheasant and rabbit. Alas – the stew was no more at 9pm! The suquet worked well, a creamy sauce blanketing firm, silky cod, though the poor floppy calçot (green onions) rather lost their status. To replace the lusted-after stew, we went for lamb cutlets (£12.50) – a great call and 10/10 for these tender little morsels. So good that there’s no photo of course. I’d love to know where they source their lamb – and next time shall head into asador-land with more hunger.
Washing it all down, the carafe(s) of Pedrera wine from Jumilla hit the spot, nothing special but not excessively priced (£11.25 for 375ml), so all in all Brindisa Morada gets a big thumbs-up. Hardly surprising really with their history.