Moio review: a delicious mix of Portuguese and Scandinavian
Unexpected flavour combinations are the chef’s speciality
Set on a busy corner in Stoke Newington, this refreshing restaurant lives up to its name in many ways. At first look, it’s unclear exactly what it’s trying to say, but once you’re let in on the secret you can’t help but feel satisfied.
To the non-etymologists among us, a moio is a way of measuring salt and other products that was specifically used by merchants trading between Portugal and Scandinavia. Moio the restaurant is a reimagining of what an exchange between southern and northern Europe could look like today. No longer are we just talking about salt: this modern Moio throws all sorts of exciting combinations at the plate.
On a fairly quiet Thursday evening, my guest and I arrive at Moio to a warm greeting from founder Carolina Seibel. The restaurant is nicely decorated, neat and comfortable if somewhat generic, with the right touch of rustic features to add to the welcoming atmosphere. Seibel goes beyond her role as sommelier, proving a fantastic host over the course of the evening.
Along with co-founder and head chef João Ferreira Pinto, Seibel opened the restaurant at the beginning of this year, and their shared pride in what they’ve created is clear. We are invited to enjoy an evening of dishes selected from the compact menu selected by Pinto himself, and after we’ve covered dietary restrictions, we can sit back and enjoy the chef’s own highlights.
The food list is roughly separated into four sections, each with four options. There are clear influences from Portugal (Portuguese morcela with smoked plum, £3) and from Sweden (Wrångebäck’s cheese, lingonberry jam, crispbread, £6) as well as some that float somewhere between the two. Prices range from £3 to £17, and the dishes have been designed to accompany each other as part of a sharing menu.
If anything, our first arrivals set the bar too high, with nothing that follows ever quite hitting the same heights. Our Algarve-flavoured carrots are powerfully flavoured, with a punch of garlic that verges on addictive. Served alongside is beautiful smoked eel – my first time eating eel – and hearty chunks of bread from nearby Dusty Knuckle. The butter, flavoured in the restaurant, is creamy and adds a final dimension to an all-round delicious starter.
Next, we enjoy a salad of tomatoes, raspberries and cheese ice cream. The raspberries offer a healthy kick of tartness, adding an unexpected dimension, and the ice cream’s refreshing notes prove it to be more than just a gimmick. Meanwhile, the cauliflower and buttermilk panna cotta with scallop also benefits from a raspberry boost, this time in the form of a powder, cutting through the smooth texture of the rest of the dish.
The main course, if there is such a thing, is the third plate. We again get two servings, of which the short rib is the stronger. The meat has been cooked to perfection, delicately falling from the fat and meshing beautifully with the softer flavours of its bed of charred aubergine puree and shallots. Our other dish, a hazelnut cavatelli with green asparagus, is slightly more pedestrian, but still incredibly moreish. Pinto set himself a high bar by describing the accompanying egg as the “perfect egg” on the menu, which he only slightly misses. The asparagus, however, is faultless.
Dessert brings some decent combinations, and the roast almond ice cream with herb granita and strawberries is a great palate-cleanser. Something gets slightly lost in the alternative dish, which has hay-flavoured mousse that doesn’t taste of hay, served with lychees and a flat lemon granita.
Throughout the evening, Seibel provides specially paired wines that complement the food, and her expertise is clear. The partnership she has with Pinto is evident, and allowing the pair to take control of the menu is a delight.
As someone who calls south London home, Stoke Newington is a long way to go for food, but the Moio team delivers. Strongest when at their most unexpected and flavourful, Moio has made something that makes that journey more than worthwhile.
Moio, 188 Stoke Newington High St, N16 7JD; moiorestaurant.com