Name: Gonzalez Byass and Morito
Where: Morito, 32 Exmouth Market, London, EC1R 4QE, http://morito.co.uk/
Cost: £50 per person including 6 courses of 9 tapas dishes, accompanying sherries and service. The menu is available only on Sundays, with sittings at 5pm and 7.30pm.
About: Gonzalez Byass has teamed up with Morito, one of my favourite tapas bars in London (reviewed here), to create a Morito Sherry Feast Menu.
Designed to highlight Gonzalez Byass’ range of Spanish sherries from Fino to Pedro Ximenez, with some top notch tapas.
What We Ate and Drank: The menu kicks off with a glass of Tio Pepe Fino. Pale gold in colour, with savoury aromas, this is bone dry, crisp and light in body. Traditionally partnered with salted almonds, at Morito it was served with 4 different tapas including marinated olives, smoked Marcona almonds and a delicious pan con tomate (sourdough bread topped with chopped tomatoes, avocado and anchovy).
The fino was also served with some heartier starters including a delectable clams with grilled leeks, parsley and garlic, and baked bacalhao (salted cod) with potatoes, thyme and paprika.
Next came a glass of Tio Pepe Fino 'En Rama'. Bottled unfiltered and unclarified, this sherry is about as close as you can get in London to drinking the sherry straight from the cask. Pale gold, it had a richer, more complex nose than the Fino, and was served with a generous tuna confit in olive oil and sweet onions.
Amontillado sherries are allowed some contact with air to give partial oxidation during their maturation, and Gonzalez Byass 'Del Duque' , aged for 30 years through the solera system, was no exception. With a rich amber colour, caramel and creamy vanilla aromas, this was a superb dry sherry. Morito partnered it with a delicious dish of seared oyster mushrooms with pancetta Iberica, fresh oregano and Marcona almonds. My favourite dish of the evening.
Next up was a glass of Palo Cortado. These sherries are initially aged under a layer of 'flor' yeast, which imparts a savoury character, but then the yeast is removed to permit a degree of oxidation. The 30 year old Apostales Palo Cortado was a deep amber colour, with aromas of dried fruits, cedar and caramel. Showing great depth of flavour and concentration, this delicious sherry was served with charcoal-grilled horn peppers and secreto Iberico - a particularly succulent cut of Iberico pork (solely fed on acorns, giving the meat a deliciously marbled, nutty quality).
Moving on to the sweeter end of the sherry spectrum, in which Pedro Ximenez (PX) grapes are used in addition to the Palomino varietal, the penultimate wine was a magnificent Matusalem Oloroso Dulce. Aged for over 30 years, this luscious sherry had sweet raisin and fig flavours, balanced by savoury Oloroso characteristics of spice and candied peel, giving a drink of great complexity. This was expertly matched with a couple of fine Spanish cheeses – Romero (a goats cheese from Murcia) and Picos de Europa (a bold and salty blue cheese from Castile-Leon). The combination of sweet sherry and salty cheese was delicious, and one I look forward to trying again at home.
Finally, with Morito's deliciously simple signature dessert of Malaga raisin ice cream, we were served a glass of Noe – 100% PX. Again aged for 30 years, this viscous sherry had a deep brown colour, and flavours of dried fruit, spice and treacle. Sweet and richly complex, this was a great end to the meal. Despite its age and pedigree, I poured a little over the ice cream and it made an excellent partner. I was surprised by the freshness of this PX – it was not cloyingly sweet as so many can be, and this reflected the long oak-aging of the sherry.
Morito has a fine spread of sherries on its regular drinks list, including fino, manzanilla, amontillado, palo cortado, oloroso and pedro ximenez options, so it is well worth dropping in to try them.
Likes: It was great to try the full range of sherries from the driest to the sweetest in one meal. I loved the Tio Pepe with baked salted cod, the Spanish cheeses with sweet Oloroso, and the sweet but refreshing Pedro Ximenez over the Malaga raisin ice cream.
Dislikes: I love Morito on Exmouth Market but we hardly had space to breath in it!
Verdict: Every time I drink sherry, I think I should have it more often. There is such a spectrum of flavours and it is an ideal partner to Spanish and Japanese food, as well as other cuisines. Recommended.