Let’s get the predictable gripe out of the way first: these aren’t tapas. Call me pedantic, call me awkward. My defence is Castilian blood. This isn’t ‘liking Spanish stuff’ as a lifestyle choice, this stuff is genetic. And if you still don’t get it, tickets for my one man show CAWL AND IRISH STEW ARE EXACTLY THE SAME THING- previewing at the 2020 Eisteddfodd- go on sale soon.
You can’t just go around calling everything ‘tapas’. Well, you can: the world surprises us every day. Pigs in blankets? English tapas. Sliders? American tapas. Maki rolls? Japanese tapas. Mini pizzas? You get the picture. Easy. But should you? It’s almost as if the traditions of mezze, cicchetti, pulutan etc didn’t exist.
It’s even stranger when the menu at Moo Moo Thai Tapas is actually organised into ‘starters’ and mains-sized portions. There isn’t a tapas section in sight- without stretching the issue, we are more in plato or ración territory here.
But it’s easier to overlook terminology quibbles when they do tamarind duck, and it’s as good as theirs. It’s from the section labelled ‘Chef Recommendation’ and it’s two of my favourite things in one dish.
There are wines and soft drinks only on the menu, but when we ask for beer we are offered Chang and Singha.
We try a few ‘starters’, to get into the small portion spirit. There’s a light touch on show with the batter in the crispy beef, though alone they’re a little underpowered: with the rich, dark soy-based dip everything springs tangily to life. It’s a dip as an essential rather than an option.
It’s easy to use squid as a barometer (not like that, you’re just being odd now) to gauge what kind of night a kitchen is having. It’s easily ruined by a heavy hand. Here it comes spiky with salt and chilli. If you too have a prawn addiction, you’ll find a lot to love here.
Little wonton parcels of prawn are meaty without being too dense. As with any seafood dumping in my immediate vicinity, they don’t last long. Not long enough for me to point a camera at them anyway.
A green curry is thinner, and hence lighter, than many, and the billed Thai aubergine is substituted by the more familiar emoji-friendly variety. It’s good, but even better is a mains-sized stir fry.
It’s a potent mixture, heavy on garlic and relying on the snap of the beans for texture. With chilli and kaffir lime it’s a hot and sour, punchy and boldly flavoured. But ultimately, no description I could muster could possibly beat Chas’ assessment this morning, ‘That prawn stir fry was bastard hot, wasn’t it?’
On the principle that you shouldn’t mither about something online that you haven’t raised with the restaurant, I ask about the name. Moo Moo has no bovine connection, but carries the idea of ‘easy’ or ‘seamless’, if I understood correctly.
The owner explains that the tapas is a mistake. Originally she wanted to serve a succession of small dishes, giving people the chance to take a tour of the menu.
But it didn’t work, with the feedback that customers wanted generous portions- which brings us back to that duck.
Slow cooked and then finished with a blast of hot oil, the skin arrives lightly rendered, puffed into fragile almost-crackling and laced liberally with a sticky glaze which delivers ever bit of the tart- sweet hot I wanted from the tamarind. It’s a standout dish.
So. Moo Moo Thai Tapas. New, busy, bold. Just not what you might be expecting. Worth a look? Certainly- it’s busy most nights, and we were lucky to get a table. Just don’t expect tapas, get stuck in, and have fun.
Moo Moo Thai Tapas
244 City Road
+44 7366 558181
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This blog is a very simple thing.
I won’t try to sell you any hand lotion, exercise programmes, coffee syrups or Patagonian nose flutes. You won’t find tips on dating, ‘wellness’ or yoga mats.
I write because I love it (and food, as indicated by my increasing girth). Greed happens to be my Deadly Sin of choice, but at least it is never shy of providing me with subject matter.
A simple thing, then: all you get is me wittering on semi-coherently about places I’ve eaten at; hence a ‘restaurant blog’ rather than a ‘food blog’, although there are a few recipes scattered throughout.
From mezze to Michelin ‘fine dining’ and all points in between.