Morso London review: a modern twist on traditional recipes, with sharing at its heart
Italy’s stuck on the amber list - so why not send your tastebuds travelling instead?
With the majority of appetising holiday destinations stuck on the amber list, pretty much the only way to travel these days is through your tastebuds. And where could be better to visit than Italy, albeit via Morso - a relaxed neighbourhood restaurant and bar with outposts in Abbey Road and Kensal Rise.
With its name meaning “small bites” (think: morsels), Morso provides a twist on traditional Italian recipes, with sharing at the heart of its concept. The menu is split into five sections: veg, meat and fish “bites”, fresh pasta and dessert. For a table of two, a recommended order would be three bites to share, two hand-made pasta dishes and one or two desserts - but the varied, flavourful and utterly unpretentious menu makes it tough to narrow down your options.
My dining companion and I eventually opted to start with rump tagliata (British beef rump steak cooked medium rare, served on a soft bed of wild Italian rocket with a smoked garlic butter sauce), seared yellowfin tuna (accompanied by cannoli beans, grilled courgette, tomatoes, mint and a tangy lemon dressing) and the creamiest burrata with fresh san marzano tomatoes.
The steak was melt-in-the-mouth and the seared tuna as soft as butter - but it’s the burrata-tomata-starter which sent my tastebuds on a trip I won’t forget for a long time. I like to think of myself as a tomato connoisseur, but never before in the UK have I eaten tomatoes with such intense flavour - tooth-tingly sweet and lip-suckingly tart in equal measure. I wasn’t surprised to learn from our waitress that they’d been imported from Italy.
Picking our mains was difficult, but after much deliberation, we went for rigatoni al pesto and pappardelle al ragu made with slow-cooked British beef rump and chuck (which comes from a cow’s shoulder). Both pasta portions were served al dente and came with very generous servings of sauce; each bite was sufficiently saturated - with no risk of dryness as my plate cleared. The rich ragu was particularly delicious - it had been cooking for nine hours and you could really taste it.
When in Rome, you have to drink grappa, so I selected a Botanist cocktail (grappa, ginger wine, cucumber syrup and lemon) which the menu - accurately - described as tasting “like a summer garden”. Morso’s grappa is as authentic as they come; the brandy spirit is distilled from fresh grape pomace (the solid remains of grapes after the juice is extracted) using traditional Italian methods. Those without a sweet tooth may find the Botanist slightly on the sickly side; the vecchio stile (smoked grappa with classic and angostura bitters) could be a better match.
My teetotal companion opted for the amarena cherry and elderflower cordial fizz; the flavour of the sour dark fruit combined with the sweet floral notes was not unlike that of a Haribo ‘tangfastic’ cherry (in a very enjoyable way). She loved it so much that she promptly ordered a second.
For dessert, I needed to wake myself up from my carb-coma, so chose caffe corretto e affogato (espresso coffee and almond grappa served with fior di latte ice cream). The refreshing gelato acted as a perfect palate cleanser, while the booze/coffee combination was just the energy boost I needed to get me from Kensal Rise overground station to my east London home.
Morso is your one-stop shop for creative yet traditional Italian food with outstanding flavour combinations and fresh ingredients. Its unassuming setting and informal atmosphere only contribute to the restaurant’s charm and sense of authenticity. So, as you bide your time until Italy eventually moves to the green list, where could be better to get your fix than with a plate of pasta and a glass of grappa at Morso?
Morso, 43 Chamberlayne Rd, London NW10 3NB and 130 Boundary Rd, London NW8 0RH; morsolondon.co.uk