Losing my heart to Morito…

Morito made me love aubergine.

Normally I’m all about personal accountability but I swear on this occasion, it’s totally, completely & utterly their fault. Never really liked it before but the way they do it here in the little sister of Clerkenwell stalwart Moro? Well let’s just say the aubergine and I have a lot of lost time to make up for.

There are so many things I loved about this new girl on Hackney Road but I have to start with the biggest & most important in my mind, and the fact that there’s now something else in the world for me to devour with passion is pretty significant to me.

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As a Tube devotee who balks at the first world problem of finding overground stations near my final destination, I wouldn’t say this is the easiest place in the world to get to but I swear on all that is good and delicious – yes, I am talking about those aubergines again – that it’s absolutely worth it.

I expected more tables given the generous size of the open plan dining room however the kitchen and bar area take up a fair portion so unless you’re super lucky or arrive as the door is being opened, chances are you may have to wait for a little bit…try not to ogle the meals of those lucky enough to be chowing down already while you do so but if you’re successful, please, let me know how the heck you managed it.

The Wednesday night we arrived heralded two seats in the window by the door almost instantly, perfect for people watching, a bit more challenging plate wise given that we ordered enough food to feed every participating country of the upcoming Olympic games.

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A perfectly sized menu lists a good number of options under each heading and at just £14.50 for the most expensive plate on offer, this is a great place to come with a group of your greediest friends to share both the dishes & the bill; I hate hearing that somewhere new & exciting has opened up only to discover that I can’t afford to enjoy it and the accessibility of Morito’s prices warrants another nod of approval from those not on a fat cat, city banker salary.

Easing my stomach in gently heralded winners including a plate of pan con tomate with jamon – warm & soft with the sun soaked flavours of the Med spilling out with each bite – and a beautifully varied bread basket.

‘I’m sorry, I’m not eating bread’ confessed my dining buddy.

‘I’m not sorry in the slightest’, I retorted as I tore apart piece after piece with the sort of voracity that might lead you to conclude I was carb-loading for the London Marathon.

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Fast food the way it should be at Shake Shack…

When it comes to food, I am a fully paid up split personality. I love to eat healthily, I like trying new wholegrains, I’m obsessed with avocados and I’ve totally trained myself to enjoy the sort of green juice that often has a vague aroma of feet…

…however, I also completely adore fat burgers that drip between my fingers, bursting-at-the-seam burritos that are bigger than my arms, pizza that sags under the weight of its own bountiful toppings and ice-cream sundaes loaded with enough hot chocolate fudge sauce to make Augustus Gloop’s eyes gleam.

What this little glimpse into my psyche means is that while I’ve been dying to try Shake Shack since it opened on these shores last year, I’ve had to wrestle with when that would happen thanks, in no small part, to the rise of all things that fall under the banner of ‘clean eating’ and all the frankly freakin’ awesome burger joints we currently have in London. However the time has come, the day has been, the Shack has been sampled and oh lordie, it was gooooooood.

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Given that the original Covent Garden location always appears to involve queuing for roughly the same amount of time you’d need to devote to transatlantic flying, I skipped round the corner to New Oxford Street. Here you’ll find the most cavernous location where the menu filled an entire wall, plasma screens told us about the restaurants’ suppliers and slatted wooden tables stood under enormous brushed metallic letters proclaiming devotion to the gods of ‘shakes’, ‘burgers’ and ‘fries’.

It’s important you know the difference between the two types of burger places currently on offer in the capital – Honest, Patty & Bun, Bobo Social, these are all sit down, have a beer & enjoy table service sort of spots. Shake Shack & its main US originated competitor Five Guys are self-serve and fast food. This isn’t a bad thing you understand, it just means that you have to think of them more along the lines of those golden arches…except they’re in a whole other league when it comes to taste and quality.

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Service wasn’t bad; staff on our early Saturday evening visit had the weary demeanours of customer facing workers who’ve been on their feet for 8 hours already but they were perfectly pleasant. For such an apparently huge space, there aren’t as many tables as you might expect so it took a few minutes of diner-stalking to bag seats as a couple left but food was pretty quick to arrive via a handheld buzzer that took me back to my (short lived before being moved into the kitchen) heydays of waitressing in Pizza Hut.

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Two burgers, one cheese fries, two sodas and a frozen custard totalled around £25 so not as cheap as the aforementioned Ronald McD but for the most part, it was totally worth it.

Patties were juicy, buns were sweet, cheese was melty, lettuce was crisp, and tomatoes were ripe. I absolutely devoured my burger in greedy bites, loving each one a little more than the one before; it was everything a top quality fast food burger should be. Fries were retro-perfectly crinkle cut – anyone else have one of those hand-held slices with the crinkled edge?! – and generously covered with the sort of gloopily delicious cheese sauce your inner fat kid wants to pour on everything…yep, this food made me one happy gal.

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A word of warning; for me, the frozen custard which we had in the form of a New Oxford Street Style Concrete (frozen chocolate custard ice-cream blitzed with St. John Bakery brownies, peanut butter sauce and banana) was something of a let-down. I’ve had better ice-cream (Udderlicious), I’ve had better fro-yo (Pinkberry) and I’ve had better take-out from the supermarkets (Ben & Jerry) of our capital. I didn’t consider it anything outstandingly creamy or delicious and while it didn’t offend me, I definitely don’t rate it as worthy of the £5 price tag.

I’ve spent a lot of time stateside where celeb-fave In’N’Out has always topped my fast food treat list but a recent visit there proved disappointing and in an age where good burgers are the holy grail of our ‘grams and tweets, you just can’t rest on your laurels so from now on, Shack, I got your back.

Pop your cork with absolute pleasure at Trufflesecco…

Prosecco. Truffles. Two things that have worked really rather well for our neighbours in the valleys of France & the forests of Italy over the past several hundred years and which I’m delighted to report are working equally well for the good folk of Camden town and beyond.

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Billing itself as a place in which ‘to celebrate everyday life in style with a glass of bubbles and a bite of truffles’ and inspired by a trip to the heart-stoppingly beautiful Florence, this newly opened bar on Camden High Street is the perfect place to go with colleagues on a Friday night, girlfriends on a Saturday afternoon or the one you love on a Sunday lunchtime.

Smaller inside than a spot of pressing your nose up against the windows outside might suggest, the interior is darkly lit with a burnished rose gold glow casting everything into bewitchingly intimate shadow; bulbs and vines twist down from the ceiling and row upon row of gleaming glass flutes hang at the ready, impatiently waiting to be filled with chilled golden bubbles.

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A row of stools at the bar make the perfect perch on which to nibble at a sharing platter while chairs at old wooden tables are practically begging for a first date to be sat round them. FYI, you would definitely enter the dating hall of fame if you brought someone here in the first round or two…

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Staff are kind, convivial and passionate about their wares with a menu that beautifully marries cheeses and meats together in a style that makes you long to run away to the continent and spend your time dining in a very Audrey Hepburn-Sophia Loren sort of way. Mortadella with pistachio and burrato with ribbon thin fragments of fresh truffle are especially dreamy and the platters are generous enough for two to split the cost but maybe not the entire contents of; the tallegio cheese dear readers, is worth fighting for every last crumb of.

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As the venue for a leaving do, it was a gorgeous send-off for a gorgeous lady. As the place for summer feasting, it will be every woman for herself to secure a seat at the bar and a heavenly sounding Bellini Popsicle. The sound of corks popping is an unbeatable way of lifting your mood…long may they continue at Trufflesecco.