Coya is another new Peruvian restaurant: it opened last year, hanging on to the coattails of the much hyped Lima and Ceviche. It is the brainchild of Arjun Waney, the man behind Zuma, Roka and Banca, all stylish and innovative additions to the London restaurant scene. The restaurant is coupled with a private members’ bar and housed in a grand old building in Mayfair (the entrance is unadorned and you can quite easily miss it – watch out for number 118). The dining rooms and bars are in different areas and the decor is generally gaudy with a vague Peruvian theme. Coya is the priciest of London’s Peruvian eateries and it is more formal than the hip ceviche and the urbane Lima. It is also the only one to properly embrace “chifa” cuisine which combines Chinese and Peruvian cooking methods.
To start we couldn’t look past the traditional ceviches – Lubina Clasico (£8) used fantastically fresh sea bass and was very similar to the kind of ceviche that I ate when I was in Peru, it was served in a mildly spicy tiger’s milk and with three kinds of corn (including traditional white corn); Atun Chifa (£11) mixed meaty yelllowtail tuna with soy sauce and sesame seeds – highly recommended. The main courses will really make a dent on your wallet, especially if you choose fish, but the Chilean sea bass with chilli was well worth £27 – it was wonderfully cooked in a slightly sticky marinade – you simply must try this. Duck with soy sauce and coriander (£17) was aiming at “posh chifa” and certainly delivered – the meat was wonderfully pink and the sauce had a hint of sweetness to offset the dryness of the soy. Dessert was some kind of faux Peruvian brownie which was nothing to write home about – the memory of the sea bass, however, will live on!
We retired to the bar for a quick post-meal drink – it was a great people watching opportunity because there was a selection of Latin American “moneyed” characters there: a dwarfish man with shiny chains around his neck and a tailored mustard jacket was being towered over by an Amazonian Brazilian beauty in gold studded high heels; Mexican “brats” were sipping cocktails at the bar – boys with slick back hair-dos and little pinched mouths, girls with supermodel good looks and Gucci handbags, a slice of London life that you wouldn’t normally see.
Verdict: save up, and stick to the fish – especially the sea bass.
Lubina Clásico: Sea bass, red onions, sweet potato, white corn.
Atún Chifa: Yellowfin tuna, soy, sesame seeds, shrimp cracker.
Chilean sea bass, amarillo chilli.
Duck breast, lúcuma, soya sauce, coriander shoots.
Also see: The Hedonist, London Unattached and Evening Standard.