What's the draw
As committed eaters we know how easy it is to get disorientates when dining out in London. There are only so many meals one can consume before they start to smear into an indecipherable blur of tasty-but-inevitably-forgettable plates of food. Moio isn't a restaurant to get one of those meals. Moio is where hay-flavoured mousse and wattleseed jus rule the roost; a restaurant that's not afraid to push the boat out no matter how choppy the waters of London's dining scene may look from the shore. The chef-sommelier team of João Ferreira Pinto and Carolina Seibel bring their respective Portuguese and Swedish heritage to the forefront as Moio toes nimbly between the disparate food cultures. Having previously worked the line at Portland and Frenchie, chef Pinto has a wealth of culinary experience under his belt that demonstrates itself in the considered and ambitious plates on the menu. The food at Moio really does, however, need to be eaten to be understood: it's experimental cooking that's not as abstract as what you'd find at a Wylie Dufresne or a Heston Blumenthal but accessible, stimulating and – most importantly – delicious.
What to drink
Floral fizz in the form of a glass of Cavicchioli Pignoletto 1928 Modena should start you off on the right foot. Follow that with a left from pretty much anything off Seibel's expertly curated wine list and you'll be blissfully failing a walk-and-turn sobriety test in next to no time. An especially drinkable Slovenian furmint from Puklavec Family Wines proves it's high-time that Eastern bloc winemakers broke into the old boys club of French and Italian wines and got the respect they deserve. Another new school noisemaker we sampled was a 2017 Jumpin' Juice 'Half Full' yellow wine from Aussie producer Patrick Sullivan – a juicy, cloudy concoction that was as heavy on the grapefruit notes as a well mixed paloma.
What to eat
Plates are designed for sharing so bring someone with an equal passion for eating. We start with radicchio leaves – two purple pockets stuffed with delicately smoked eel, pickled watermelon radish and a satisfying crunch of scattered almonds – before swiftly moving on to gushing over the Algarve carrots. Those ochre medallions had more punch than a boxer, dressed in a slightly spicy, parsley-flecked dressing that reminded this writer of a top-rate chorizo. Bright heirloom tomatoes from Spain, British raspberries and chubby Mirabelle plums form a ruck around a quenelle of savoury cheese ice cream in one of the most thrilling salads of recent memory. That multicoloured mix is placed in front of us before being drenched in a warm and umami tomato consommé that ekes away at the ice cream and rounds off a delightfully clever plate.
Cauliflower and buttermilk panna cotta with marinated scallop is no less audacious, but too muddled for its own good. Raspberry powder dusted on the scallops aims to give the delicate seafood a sumac-esque lift, but overly sweet and claggy panna cotta brings it thudding back to reality. So, no, not at everything Moio hits the mark, but when it does, it really does: seafood barley with spicy bisque and samphire is perhaps the best example of that bullseye. Swimming in a rich broth with pleasant chewy barley, prawns remain firm and mussels silky smooth in a dish that tastes as if a bisque, a cataplana and a risotto said "to hell with it" and threw their car keys in a bowl for the night. A slow-cooked short rib that's left in the oven on low for three whole days sits atop a bed of charred aubergine purée and wattleseed jus. The meat is so tender it's frankly absurd, riffing off the pastrami readily available around the restaurant's North London locale and pairing perfectly with a Journey's End 'The Huntsman's End' shiraz. We end on another high with the lychee, hay-flavoured mousse and lemon verbena granita. Topped with slates of ash meringue, it's a dessert that's equal parts tasty as it is fun; well-balanced in flavour and texture with experimental elements like the hay mousse not pervading as too farmyard-y. Moio is an exciting restaurant that underlines you don't have to fork out an arm and a leg to dine at the cutting edge of cooking. Please go.
Small plates from £4, wine by the glass from £5. 188 Stoke Newington High Street, N16 7JD; moiorestaurant.com