Yet again, Peruvian influences are spreading across London. It was only a few years ago that London’s food scene bagged itself Peruvian restaurants – all of which continue to draw crowds. One brand, Lima, has recently had a revamp, and two new restaurants have stepped into the fray since August.
Lima, based in Fitzrovia (31 Rathbone Place), added a much-needed extension and redesigned its dining spaces but also launched a new a la carte menu in November. The new dishes come with healthy twists, such as white and purple sweet potato added to main courses and an entire dessert menu free of refined sugar – yes, that is possible!
Laura Hammond, a Lima insider, explains: “Peru’s national dish of ceviche has been a pillar of the LIMA menu since the beginning. It uses the acidity of tumbo fruit to cook the fish, a method widespread in Peru before the Spaniards brought limes across in the sixteenth century.”
The two newest Peruvian restaurants in London, Monmouth Kitchen (20 Mercer Street) and Chicama, combine flavours from other countries to create more complex menus. Monmouth Kitchen, which opened in August at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel on Mercer Street, has already proved popular, not least because of the Pisco Sour cocktails, including the quirky Monmouth Fizz with jasmine tea syrup.
Italian-Peruvian flavours are a speciality, so you could enjoy anticuchos or lobster ceviche whilst the person opposite you tucks into pizza. However, like Chicama, Monmouth Kitchen steers clear of serving Peruvian beers, which will disappoint anyone hoping to enjoy Cristal or Cusqueña.
Chicama (383 King’s Road) takes inspiration from Peruvian seafood but, as importing fish from the other side of the world might be deemed a little too extravagant even for Chelsea, the finest Cornish fish is used instead. In fact, the whole menu makes use of seasonal British food, but with a Peruvian touch. Look out for red quinoa, vegetable ceviche and ají amarillo mayonnaise, all of which are combined with British and Japanese elements. Coming from the same restaurant family as Pachamama, it’s hardly surprising this new restaurant has appeal.
Japanese-influenced Peruvian food, known as Nikkei, is hugely popular in Peru and promotes the strong Japanese communities found there. The Japanese first settled in Peru in the 19th century as plantation workers, and today there are 54,000 people of Japanese origin in the country – it’s a huge part of the Japanese diaspora.
Micaela Philippo, part of the Chicama team, talked me through the menu highlights.
“Our most popular dishes are popped corn monkfish cheeks; (pieces of monkfish rolled in popcorn batter and served with aji amarillo mayo), plus courgette and cornmeal beignets: they’re spongy with a crisp coating and served with chili jam and a herb cream sauce.
“There’s also tenderstem broccoli with coffee and chilli dip, and we have a grilled fish of the day, like monkfish tail.”
Having enjoyed plenty of Peruvian food when I visited in 2014, I’m eager to experiment with these dishes.