31 Rathbone Place, W1T 1JH
Nearest tube: Goodge Street
Dinner for two with wine and service: around £120
Peruvian restaurants are a recent London trend with Tierra Peru opening at the end of last year, Ceviche in February, Lima in July and Coya set to open later this month. Lima has been firmly on the London food bloggers’ compass since it opened and has generally received good write ups – doughnuts&wine, Chez Allessandra, The D@ily Out, edge and spoon, with only the esteemed Andy Hayler giving a bad review. Having visited Peru earlier this year, I was keen to visit and decide if all the hype is justified. Peruvian cuisine dominates the South American restaurant scene and it is driven by a group of innovative chefs based in Lima. It also mixes well with other styles of cooking – in Quito, Ecuador I went to a fantastic Ecuadorian and Peruvian fusion restaurant which was staffed by Ecuadorian chefs and served a mix of Andean dished with Peruvian flourish. The Peruvians I met whilst travelling were extremely proud of their food culture and often verged into pretentiousness, in my opinion overstating the importance of Peruvian food on the world stage. So I entered Lima expecting quite fussy food and unsure of whether the quality of cooking would match the hype. However, under Andy Hayler’s guidance about what dishes to avoid eg the crab main course, I was pleasantly surprised by my meal at Lima. Everything I ordered looked outstandingly pretty and the general standard of cooking was good.
We started with a trip to the downstairs bar for a couple of Pisco (a grape brandy) sours – Peru’s national cocktail – these were made in front of us using good quality Pisco but were a bit heavy on the egg white and were not a patch on the Pisco sours in Peru. We then headed up to the main dining area – try and get a table there if you can – the atmosphere is great, we ended up chatting with the nice folks at the table next to us. I started with Sea Bream ceviche (£8) which was really fantastic – the fish was very fresh and firm; the tiger’s milk extremely sharp with a slight spiciness and the sweet onion added a nice crunch.
For main course I had two Merluza (hake) fillets: one with Kohlrabi cabbage and capers, the other with Maca root (which tasted a bit like turnip) and chilli compote (£20). Like all the dishes here, it was beautifully presented but the balance of flavours wasn’t quite right – the creaminess of the cabbage clashed with the tartness of the maca root, and the fish was a tad overdone.
However, my friend’s Halibut (£18) with corn parfait was superb – the fish was nicely firm and it was lifted by some unusual Andean herbs; the parfait was rich and creamy.
My dulce de leche (Argentine caramel) ice cream (£6) was silky smooth and nicely married with a tangy beetroot emulsion and some crunchy honey sprinkles. The waiting staff at Lima have been criticised in many blogs, but I was generally impressed by the standard of service (although they did add a couple of extra items to my bill – I recommend you to scrutinise your bill with care!).
Lima is definitely worth a visit – it is very stylish, the food is unusual and is generally well cooked.