Italian Tapas at Gastrovino, Chelsea

Situated over 2 floors, Gastrovino is a cute Italian restaurant nestled in the heart of kings road. Surrounded by Italians, (and being asked if I am ACTUALLY Italian – half mate, half) I knew that the food had to be yummy.

IMG_5246Andrea, Katrina and I attended last Wednesday for their aperitivo night! For just £10 pounds per person, every guest is given a welcome drink, as well as an unlimited access to a selection of different small dishes, which are continuously brought out by the chefs as the night unfolds. In terms of price, their Wednesday night deals are such a bargain, as each dish usually ranges between £5-8. I will say we arrived pretty late and so it was rather difficult finding a table and setting up- if you don’t want the hassle of standing around praying someone gets up, definitely go earlier than 8:30 pm! It is also more dimly lit downstairs than up, but this is because the lower deck is a great place for a cocktail, serving as the bar area rather than the main restaurant itself. However, once we did find a seat it was a cosy evening! There was some live music going on in the background and an array of tasty drinks on offer, which really added to the atmosphere. In terms of food, (my favourite part of any situation) we were in control of what dishes we wanted (and in our case, re wanted teehee)- helping ourselves to the various tasty dishes that were on order. As previously mentioned, because the chefs constantly bought out variations of traditional and authentic Italian dishes throughout the night, there was always something new to try. I must admit I kept helping myself to more… it was for the whole table Ok. My favourite dish had to be the aubergine parmigiana. If I have to explain what that is then you know nothing. Jokes.  It is deep fried aubergine in tomato sauce covered with mozzarella cheese mmmmm. We also had the classic bruschetta, pizzette, seafood risotto, pasta with a creamy tomato sauce and meatballs! A pretty good selection if you ask me… and that wasn’t even the half of it!

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All the food was what I’d expect (and want!) from a typical Italian restaurant: tasty carbs, cheese and lots of deep fried goodies.

Looking for Mexican food in London?

Hello, all!

Another post that is LONG OVERDUE. I have recently started working full time and as I know from interning, it becomes much harder to fit everything into your evenings when you get back home. I usually want to mong out and watch TV all evening. (Challenge accepted)

After my recent take on a vegan taco, (which by the way were delicious, super easy to make and can be found the picture is on my Instagram with the ingredients!), I was thinking about what my favourite Mexican place is in London.

As you may or may not know, I went to Mexico in September with a few friends. Once you’ve been there and tasted their fresh guac (among other yummy delights), you realise that a lot- and I’m not saying all! -chains here in London just don’t offer the same authenticity.  

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Take Lupita on Commercial street in Aldgate for example. I don’t’ usually call out restaurants in a bid to shame them and I don’t want anyone to get the impression that that is what I am doing (Ok maybe a little, though). All I will say is, the last time I went the food was pretty substandard. I just didn’t enjoy it and for a split second, I think I began to think that that was what Mexican food was SUPPOSED to taste like (which obviously it isn’t). SO, naturally, when I heard a few good things about Mestizo I knew I had to check it out. They even serve vegan/ lactose and gluten-free menu options for anyone that’s interested and looking for a restaurant to cater to your dietary needs! My sister and I were craving tacos and my mum was in town so we decided to kill two birds with one stone and give it a go!. It’s based near Kings Cross but I will say it is nestled on a busy road next to nothing particularly prominent. However, once you step inside, you are transported to an atmosphere that is quintessentially Mexican.

With its focus on Mexican cuisine, the restaurant serves traditional food as well as drink: TEQUILLA! There are tequila sours, various flavoured margaritas, tequila sunrise and tejito all on offer. Mexican beers are also available. Unfortunately, since I went to Mexico I must say I struggle with drinking tequila in any and all forms so I avoided these at all costs. However, if tequila is your thing, you’re particularly in luck here!

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In terms of food, we went for a few options. Guacamole for one is always a necessity when you get Mexican. Who doesn’t like guac? (If you’re reading this and you don’t then you probably need to reevaluate your life choices, -just joking).  I think when it’s made a simple way, with the classic flavours, it is actually probably the tastiest.  Then, because I LOVE CHEESE. -Yes, cheesy capitals for emphasis ( see what I did there…), I knew we had to try the Queso fundido (melted chihchuaha and oaxaca cheese) with chorizo all served with tortilla’s to dunk in and scoop up that goodness. This was also served with pico de gallo which does help to cut through all the richness of the dairy. Who knew a simple salsa would be so crucial!

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As for our main’s, we were (if you haven’t gathered) pretty decided on tacos. They have this cool option for “when you really want tacos” where you can have a tray with four different fillings – a quick way to try out a range of diverse flavours! My sister and I decided to go for these four:

  • Pollo con Mole (Shredded Chicken cooked in traditional Mexican sauce- one of the ingredients being chocolate) topped with queso fresco
  • Pastor (Traditional Mexican marinated pork served with pineapple chunks)
  • Arrachera (Beef marinated in beer, garlic, onion and spices)
  • Cuitlacoche (black corn mushrooms with onion, sweetcorn, chilli and garlic)

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The tacos were TASTY! I think my favourite was definitely the beef, however, that may be a personal preference because whenever I am making Mexican at home I always tend to go for beef as well. Ordering this was a great idea if you’re like me and you get especially bored of eating the same thing. By having it on the table, where diners help themselves also meant that you could customise and experiment until you reached taco perfection.

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Now, if you know me (and this is beginning to sound like Deja vu) I love desserts. Naturally, we all decided to order some to finish off our lovely meal. We decided to opt for the pastel 3 leches, as well as the buñuelos. These were essentially crispy dough fritters served with cane syrup and ice cream.

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The 3 leches cake was made with ‘3 milks’ – condensed and evaporated milk all topped with double cream!

DSC02872While the crispy dough fritters came off a bit boring, the 3 milk cake was delicious! Anything that has that condensed milk in it is going to taste yummy! The richness of the cake contrasted really well with the fresh double cream. I’d definitely recommend it if you have a sweet tooth. We were fighting over this dessert rather than the other that’s for sure!

So, it’s safe to say- If you’re looking for a Mexican restaurant in London, head to Mestizo!

Brunch at St. Regis, Doha.

The last of my Doha series. (LONG overdue, I know)

I realise that I have recently spent less time blogging. I think this because I’ve been more preoccupied with trying to find jobs and amidst all the rejections, it is sometimes hard to pick yourself back up. I’ve always enjoyed having a set plan in life- I always knew I wanted to do a masters degree straight after my undergraduate for example and now I feel like the universe is testing me, pushing me on a path into the unknown.  However, when I think about it, blogging, (no matter how many people read my posts- shout out to the family), is a way to have that control I yearn for, as well as the chance to speak about things I am passionate about – namely food and going out to eat! My holiday to Doha was exactly what I needed to put all of that into perspective and I do have to constantly remind myself of all the things I am lucky for.

Anyways, enough of my current life situation and more on what is really important- delicious food! I wasn’t initially going to post this because I figured it had been a few weeks since I’d been to the St. Regis but when I tell you it was the biggest spread of food I’ve ever seen in my life, I knew my fellow foodies would appreciate it.

 

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An abundance of seafood for all you seafood lovers out there

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Fresh oysters

 

In the Middle East, Brunch on a Friday is a regular (and amazing) occurrence. I’ve often wondered to myself why they can’t bring it over to the U.K but the answer is pretty simple. Unlimited booze and food send people into a frenzy! If you aren’t familiar with the Middle Eastern version of brunch it goes a little something like this:

Brunch

brʌn(t)ʃ/

noun

  1. A late morning unlimited buffet, offering everything from starters, desserts and a range of cuisines eaten instead of breakfast and lunch. Unlimited alcohol and rowdiness usually always included.

    “I’m not having any breakfast this morning, I’m heading to Brunch and need all the space I can get”

Now, living in the Middle East for most of my life, I can say I’ve experienced a fair few brunches in my time, as well as a fair few nasty hangovers the day after. (The trick is to most definitely keep on eating despite the urge to keep topping up your free flowing glass) However,  I have got to hand it to them, the St Regis’s Brunch was truly something else. I was in awe at just how much food was stocked and spread throughout the entire layout of the restaurant, stretching outdoors all the way to a neighbouring restaurant on the other side. The brunch offered fresh seafood, salads, Arabic mezze and that’s just the starters!

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a snapshot of the mezze and salads

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In addition, you could have unlimited flowing bubbles, as well as visit the FIVE (yes, I said five) bars that were on offer, each tackling a different spirit. I’m going to keep this post short and snappy for once but in order for you to get an idea of just how much food was available, I’ve attached my pictures so you can live vicariously through me! Even these only provide a mere glimpse into the brunch (believe it or not!).

Enjoy, I know I did.

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Tender steaks- (made to order!)

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Chili con carne

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Wagyu beef sliders

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Aromatic Curry

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Cheesy pasta with mushrooms served in a parmesan wheel (YUM)

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Sauteed Beef and Prawns

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Grilled Meats

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Probably my favourite of them all: Beef Wellington – This ended up running out fairly quickly so I’m glad I got to try it!

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Freshly prepared sushi

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Only a tiny fraction of the tasty desserts provided- my all time favourite was the apple crumble (sadly not pictured)

 

 

 

Hakkasan Chinese New Year Menu: Doha

I’m officially back in London!

My holiday to the Middle East felt like it went by so quick and I am definitely missing the sun. After all, it ain’t London if it ain’t gloomy most of the time!

On my trip, I got to catch up with family, popped over to Dubai to see my wonderful friends and took the opportunity to relax and forget about the stresses of reality back home (aka the never ending job hunt that currently dominates my life). Of course, while I was there I also got to eat at some amazing places and consume mouthwatering dishes (and lots of wine and alcohol too, wahoo!). We went to some great fine dining places in Doha, including Nobu, (check out my previous post for a full round up of that), as well as Hakkasan.

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If you don’t know what Hakkasan is then WHO ARE YOU? hehe just kidding. It is a Michelin starred restaurant that serves contemporary Cantonese dishes. When we went, we were in for a special treat as Hakkasan had launched a  limited edition menu, cocktail and dessert for Chinese New Year. Naturally, I knew I had to try it! Each Hakkasan location in different countries had unique dishes to their Chinese New Year menus, which meant that even when you dined at one of their restaurants, it really was something distinctive to your location, making it a truly unique experience. In Doha, the set menu was priced at QAR448 per person, which is roughly 98.88 pounds (yeah, I had to mention that, Hakkasan is definitely many things but a cheap option is not one of them). As there were four of us, two of us shared the set menu, while the other two got some classic favourites off the a La Carte menu... (all for the food blog right? Sort of… it’s mainly because I always want to make the most of any dining situation and if you know me, you know I get extremely food jealous).

This year was the year of the rooster and the signature cocktail, ‘waltzing colins’ (pisco, sake, mandarin, lemon, grenadine, cucumber and sparkling wine) all had cute rooster broaches attached to the glasses. The cocktail was tasty, although a little bit too sweet to drink loads in a row – (NOT that I am complaining, I was actually a bit hungover from my crazy few days in Dubai- oops)

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For the Doha set menu, we began with the Fortune Tale Salad, with Roasted Chicken and Mooli. This was mixed in front of us as we were all asked to make a wish in the spirit of Chinese New Year for prosperity and good fortune. This was a tasty, light starter and I especially loved the crunch element to it. However, I will say it was a bit one dimensional in terms of flavour. Next, we were served a Hakka steamed dim sum platter. These included Scallop Shumai, Hai gau, Smoked Wagyu Beef and Seabass Dumplings. THESE WERE DELICIOUS. If I had to pick between the salad or dim sum, it’s obvious that dim sum wins EVERY time.Hakkasan is known for its impeccable quality and I couldn’t agree more. My favourite would have to be the Wagyu Beef, they were so soft and tender. Although, each and everyone one was distinctive in flavour and mouth watering!

If that wasn’t enough to entice you from the a la Carte menu, we had the Crispy Duck Salad with Pomelo, Pine Nut and Shallot, as well as Jasmine Tea smoked Wagyu beef ribs. The Duck Salad at Hakkasan is so moreish and the beef ribs melted in our mouths!

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Next, we were served two tasty mains as well as three side dishes. For the expensive price, the amount of food and its quality was worth it. It is the type of place which would always ensure you truly enjoy a special occasion. The mains were steamed Dover Sole with Pumpkin, Shitake Mushrooms in a Soy Fish sauce and Wok -Fried Tiger Prawns with lemongrass and chilli.

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Out of the two, the Dover Sole was more complex in flavours and not to mention- cooked to perfection! I loved all the accompaniments that went with the fish, especially because I would have never paired pumpkin, mushroom and fish together. The prawns were succulent so I don’t have any complaints, only that they were a bit less original if ya’ know what I mean. This was all served with yummy fried rice with salted egg, braised Chinese vegetables and braised abalone.

For desserts, we were served a clever and theatrical dish- probably my favourite in terms of unique plates. Called the ‘Golden Feather’, it was shaped like an egg. The shell  was caramelised white chocolate, the outside ‘whites’ were ginger pannacotta and the centre was a mandarin core.

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It had just the right amount of sweetness and the mandarin added a tart finish. Deciding two desserts are always better than one, we also went for one dessert of the a  La Carte menu.

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The Lemon tart was served with lemon, meringue, crumble and mascarpone ice cream. Considering they were both citrus based desserts, I do have to say I preferred the a La Carte dessert. Maybe this is because I love the combination of creamy mascarpone and lemon. Who knows. Either way, both were luscious.

To round off a wonderful evening, we were asked to write our New Year’s wishes on a piece of bespoke papers, which were then hung all over the famous Hakkasan lattice cages. A perfect end to a perfect evening. Hakkasan always provides exceptional flavours and the New Year’s Menu was a chance to try something new and different. Always a win in my books!

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East London Food Girl Abroad: Nobu, Doha

 I’m back bitches! But seriously, It’s good to be back in the Middle East after not visiting for a year! 

For those of you who don’t know, I grew up in Bahrain, a small island connected to Saudi Arabia by bridge. My dad currently lives in Doha and will be moving to Oman so I wanted to try to see everyone before the big move. For the next week and a bit I am visiting friends and family. Naturally I thought it would be a good idea to blog and document all the good food we’ll be eating. I mean, this is a food blog after all!

Last night, I had the pleasure of dining at Nobu in Doha (the biggest one in the world apparently… look that shit up, it’s a real fact). My dad and Amel like to go quite a bit so it did feel slightly cool when the head chef casually came and sat with us at our table. Elegantly drawn out over three floors, facing the sea, I knew we were in for a real treat. Apologies for the low resolution images, Nobu is one of those dimly lit restaurants and I felt bad shining my light and disturbing the ambiance (haha sorry not sorry).

Whenever I’ve been to Nobu, we always tend to go for the same order. Spicy Edamame to start, the Crispy Rice with Spicy Tuna as well as Spicy Salmon (A MUST) and the Mini Tacos (ALSO A MUST).

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My favourite tacos are the Wagyu Beef with Spicy Ponzu, but the King Crab with Tomato Salsa and the Salmon with Spicy Miso are also incredibly delicious too. In addition (and in commemoration of Rebecca’s absence) we also got Wagyu Beef Tataki. If you’ve never had wagyu beef (which to be fair, a lot of us haven’t) it literally melts in your mouth. It is luxurious for a reason because it is probably the softest piece of beef you’ll ever have. However, I was a little disappointed with the beef this time round, it was super chewy and did not do the usual dish any justice. Usually it is thinly sliced and requires little effort to eat. However,  we did speak to the chef after and he said they were having a problem with their usual supplier… so I suppose I can forgive ya.

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We also then got the Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeño. So good! Especially if you’re a seafood lover but find yourself sticking to salmon all the time. I love the combo of coriander, the spiciness of the  Jalapeño all pieced together with some delicious fish. I also had to go for some Rock Shrimp Tempura with Spicy Sauce because… who doesn’t love deep-fried prawns. I realise I sound like an absolute fat ass by now… oops. Oh well. We all are at heart.

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For our mains, we went for two off menu items. One was a Whole Lobster, prepared ‘new way’, boiled and served with saffron and mushrooms. We also had the Razor Clams, which were also prepared in the ‘new way’ lightly sauteed in olive oil and sesame, topped with ginger and sesame, also served with lightly sauteed mushrooms. I had never tried razor clams before and I think trying them for the first time at Nobu was probably the best decision ever. They were tender and full of flavour! The lobster was also soft and rich, making every bite as tasty as the last.

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Finally, the chef picked our deserts (actually a winner in my books because I am always so indecisive and tend to stick to the things I know). He went for a creamy cheesecake with raspberry sorbet and another off menu item. It was AMAZING. The off menu item consisted of chili infused bananas, layered on top of a brownie and served with green tea, vanilla bean and chocolate ice cream. A true comfort food option. If I were to usually order a desert, I’d always go for chocolate instead of fruit, but this dessert cleverly combined all the elements into one!

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Nobu is definitely a pricy option, we all know that, but it also ensures you will eat yummy and satisfied food every time. A win in my books and a must try if you haven’t been and if you want to treat yourself for a special occasion. There are rumours that a Nobu in Shoreditch will be opening later this year. If this is true, that’s my excuse to try it. After all, East London is the best place to live.

 

Lunch at Palatino

Last week my sister and I went to check out Palatino, a new restaurant following Stevie Parle’s The Dock Kitchen, Rotorino, Craft London & Sardine. Palatino is an Italian restaurant with a focus on food from Rome. We have been to Rotorino before as it is an East London favourite (and five seconds from my house) and we love trying their different regional dinners from various parts of Italy, which they host at the end of every month. Knowing we have enjoyed it in the past, we decided to try our luck with Palatino.

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The decor is modern, with a mix of concrete fittings and warm yellow furniture and as we were seated we decided that in order to fully try out the restaurant’s new menu, we had to order a vast selection. We essentially picked our favourite dishes from each section and had a mini feast, (“it’s for the blog though”) opting to share each dish. I am currently unemployed (anyone looking for a brilliant worker hint hint?) and Rebecca has university so it is nice to be able to meet up in the day now that I am still searching.

For antipasti, we ordered Supli with wild mushroom & mascarpone £3 (essentially small arancini). These were delicious- mushroom and mascarpone are the perfect combinations, especially when fried into a small ball of greatness. Great choice for a sharing starter option.

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For pasta, we decided to go with Ravioli with spinach & squash £14 (main course portion). The pasta tasted fresh, the filling was flavourful and the sauce made a nice accompaniment. I always feel like, with ravioli, the mistake is having it with tomato sauce as sometimes that takes away from the flavour inside. My only complaint about this course would be that I wish there was more sauce as Rebecca and I were scraping the plate for more. Overall, though, coming from an Italian background and having tried a lot of pasta, this was pretty decent!

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Next, nothing seems more traditionally Roman than Saltimbocca, which is veal, surrounded by prosciutto, spinach, sage & Marsala wine £14.

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We also liked the sound of the fried potato gnocchi £4.

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Again, the veal was tasty! The meat was tender, the sauce was just right and the spinach on the side provided a bit of relief from the saltiness of the prosciutto. The fried Gnocchi were also extremely moreish and made a good alternative to having potatoes on the side.  However, I found that because they were bite size I kept going back for more. They were also covered in cheese and sage and who doesn’t love anything covered in cheese? (I LOVE cheese).

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As some of you will know if you read these posts often (and I’m not sure how many people that actually is.. Hey mum & Rebecca) I always love dessert and a meal is never finished without something sweet. We couldn’t decide between the Almond lemon & ricotta cake, rhubarb & creme fraiche or the chocolate cake, pistachio & honeycomb (both priced at £7) so we let the waiter surprise us. In the end, he picked the almond ricotta cake. This was light, tangy and the creme fraiche and rhubarb gave it some tartness. It was nice but not my favourite dessert I’ve ever had. Nonetheless, it was still worth it to round off an overall lovely meal.

If you’re looking for a cute Italian restaurant to bring you fond memories of a past trip to Rome, the food at Palatino will do just that.

 

 

 

 

 

Tapas at Morito, Hackney Road

Mark and I have made a new years resolution to always try and get out and do stuff. He’s always in Edinburgh during the week and it when it comes to the weekend it gets all too tempting to stay in, cook food and Netflix and chill. Last Friday, we decided to visit Morito on Hackney road.The food has influences from Southern Spain, North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean. I had been there before, but it was Mark’s first time, and he is usually not one who would automatically get a craving for tapas. Believe me, this restaurant changed it all for him.

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Upon arrival, we were seated around the marble-topped bar and given a suggestion to start with a light (and slightly bubbly) white wine. Mark and I were already hungover from the night before (me more so than him), so we did not get to fully indulge in the wine selection as much as we would have liked. The menu has a separate vegetable, meat and fish section and we decided it would only be fair to try a little bit of each. (I mean obviously, who do you take us for?)

From the vegetable section we ordered:

  • Cretan cheese fritters with thyme honey (£6)

If you love cheese, these are the best! The honey really accentuated the flavours and cut through the fried batter. So tasty.dsc02564

  • (Labneh, roast aubergines, pomegranate & pistachio £7)

dsc02557This was also so moreish. Our waiter also suggested we have this with some of the flatbread to mop up all the goodness and appropriately enjoy the dish. This was such a great shout. The flatbread was delicious, spiced with a bit of Za’atar and served with extra virgin olive oil. I had to stop myself eating it all, so I had space for all the other dishes that were to follow.

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For fish, we decided to try the fried squid with sumac & za’atar (£12).

I know that calamari can always be a hit and miss for people- sometimes the batter can be soggy, or sometimes the squid chewy but I can assure you this was none of those! It was perfectly crispy on the outside and soft inside.

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Next, Meat. We went for two dishes because we couldn’t decide between the two and because we are two fat asses (hehe jokes not really though). Mark was adamant we should try the charcoal grilled quail with rose harissa (£9.5 ), and I wanted to try the beef tagine with prunes, couscous & coriander (£9). So, our version of settling a disagreement was just caving in and trying both. A win-win situation if you ask me.

dsc02579dsc02571Again, I cannot fault the food and the dishes provided. The meat was tender and juicy, and the quail was similarly succulent. Each dish was rich with flavour and unique. I love how it was something we would never usually choose, but we both decide-  This tapas place is the bomb.

To finish off a lovely evening, we decided to have a dessert. Well, I decided, and Mark was forced to follow. I mean, everyone needs a sweet treat after a feast am I right? We went for the chocolate & olive oil mousse with hazelnuts and orange (£6.5). This sounds so weird, but the olive oil made it that much creamier and decadent. All topped with the acidity of the orange and the crunch of the hazelnut, it was a little pot of greatness.

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If anyone is looking for a cute tapas place to go with friends or on a date to enjoy good food, Morito is the place for you.