If at first you don’t succeed, try try again and repeat.

Morito evaded me on more than a couple of occasions at the end of 2010: I had to cancel a visit at late notice in November; there were too many of us on a cold December night; and then it was closed over the Christmas period. Things have turned around in 2011 though –  I finally went a couple of weeks ago … and returned 2 evenings later.

I’ll go again soon.

This is because Morito is buzzy, great value, and delicious. You sit at the bar/kitchen counter, or a window seat, or one of the small tables; enjoy a casual and chatty atmosphere; and eat fantastic little tapas dishes brought to you by competent and friendly staff. Small, orange and perfectly formed, it’s my kind of restaurant.

I had a couple of dishes on the first evening that I felt should be enforced on others two nights later. Gildas (£1 each) feature an olive,  pickled onion, a salty anchovy and a little pickled green chilli (imagine a cross between a birdseye chilli and a jalapeño), wound up together on a cocktail stick and eaten in one mouthful. Brilliant. Particularly with a crisp and dry glass of chilled manzanilla sherry.  This will be one of my stock canapes from now on. Little fried quail’s egg and jamón on soft tomatoes and toasted bread (£4) were a success on both evenings.

To be honest, I would’ve repeated 90% of the first meal on the second visit. But I held back. There’s so much temptation on the menu that this was easy to do; I will need to return 2 or 3 times before I’ve tried everything, and plenty more before I’m bored.

A deep fried empanadilla had a great and punchy mussel and chorizo filling. Spiced lamb was shredded on a citrus aubergine, yoghurt and pine nuts. Butifarra sausage with white beans and alioli was soft and comforting, whereas the lamb chops with cumin and paprika were sticky, rich and finger licking (you absolutely should pick them up to get all the flavour off).

Que mas? Padron peppers were ace as always (still never eaten a hot one, mind) and winter tabbouleh was cold and refreshing (a good option to cleanse the pallet of the other, warmer and heavier and fried flavours). Lamb and pistachio kibbe (this was awesome) was like a spicy minced lamb scotch egg, without the egg. Pork, morcilla and butter bean stew, spiced labneh with aubergine, beetroot dip with feta and walnuts, crispy aubergine with miel de caña … I’m just listing the dishes aren’t I? Well they tasted as good as they read and I don’t know enough adjectives not to be repetitive. Lets just say they were all great. And cheap (most were just £3.50/£4.00, a few (only) hovering up towards £6.00).

I had a dessert on both occasions too (I’ve got a sweet tooth and greedy eyes). The first evening was rounded off with an affogato. The ice cream was good and coffee was excellent and served on the side for you to pour over at your own leisure (as it should be – nothing worse than this being done for you before it reaches your table) [I love affogatos. Basic and great.] The second evening we went for malaga raisin ice cream. Same price (£2.50) but a slightly different ice cream (featuring the odd boozy raisin) and a very generous portion of malaga rum. Query whether my pals can really claim that they made it through January without a drink.

I should reign this back slightly and say that not quite every dish was super. On the first visit, octopus with potato and smoked paprika was bland, limp and generally disappointing – I’ve had some brilliant octopus dishes recently (alongside a ratatouille salad at Bistro Bruno Loubet, for example) and this was poor in comparison. A potato salad (patatas aliñadas) on the second occasion wasn’t great either. A bit like wet semi mashed potatoes; not as flavoursome and herby as we hoped. Seared venison with piquillo sauce was a proper fail. The meat lacked flavour and was under seasoned, and the pickled red peppers overpowering and not particularly pleasant.

But put those dishes in context – only 1 fail and 2 so so dishes out of the 19 that I tried over two visits. The other 16 being brill. I’m convinced that if you go, the stats will be just as favourable.

And given that I think you should go, I will finish with some logistics – the following points might be of use:

1. Morito is in Exmouth Market (next to Moro). Farringdon or Angel are nearest tubes/341, 19, 73 and 38 buses help/get a bike.

2. It’s small and though they’ll accommodate 5, I’d say 4 people is max and 2 ideal [NB 5 really is the most that could eat together – they could only seat more if one of the loos was turned into a private dining room].

3. You can’t book in the evenings. So turn up, say hello, wait briefly for your name and number to be taken and then go and grab a beer or glass of wine elsewhere until you get the call (Cafe Kick if you don’t mind people shrieking over a game of fusball, Medcalf if you do).  Then take your seats (the stools are tiny – the kind of girls Freddie Mercury used to sing about will have to position themselves carefully), agonise over what to choose and then finally settle in to a great evening.

4. Take a pen or a pencil. It’s almost impossible to make menu decisions here otherwise (admittedly this might be my OCD).

5. Repeat two nights later to try some of the dishes you couldn’t manage the first time round.

Morito in 3 words

Super. Both times.

The Bill

Each occasion was comfortably under £25 a head, including a little bit of booze and service. Would obviously be a touch more expensive if you drank, but I don’t think you need to spend more than around £20 each on food.

32 Exmouth Market Islington EC1R 4 – 020 7278 7007