The popularity of Peruvian food in London has climbed hugely in recent years with hotspots Ceviche, Coya, Andina and Lima to name a few. With my three month move to Peru nearly in sight I finally had an excuse to dine at one of the best, the Michelin starred Lima in London. I mean it would be silly not to educate myself in the intricacies of Peru's unique cuisine before I arrived wouldn't it?
Before my dinner at Lima I was shamefully clueless about all things Peruvian. I hoped to be taken on a tour of Peru's best flavours. And so off I went on a big food adventure not quite to the real Lima city yet, but to Lima Fitzrovia on Rathbone Place. So I closed my eyes and ordered a pisco sours...
Pisco sours is the Peruvian national cocktail with a base of pisco, a clear brandy originating from Peru. We tried a Classico - a classic pisco sours consisting of pisco, lime, sugar syrup, egg whites and bitters. And the Maracuyá - the classic pisco with a twist of passionfruit. Both were fantastic with the light cloud of egg white topping giving way to a punchy but not overpowering strong kick of pisco and zing beneath.
The welcome offering of quinoa bread with olive oil and yogurt dip was warming and light.
And the petite amuse bouche of fish pate was rich yet fresh and left me wanting to try more and more.
To maximise our exposure to Peruvian cuisine we opted to share, ordering five starters and four main courses. We were stunned by the beauty and vibrance of every plate, it was like nothing I had ever seen, ever tasted before.
First came the Asparagus Peru - shavings of asparagus with a tree tomato emulsion, andean sweet potato and red shiso. This was incredibly refreshing as the raw asparagus was cooling and cleansing.
Hand dived scallops, with yellow aji pepper, muña mint, and corn arrived next. The scallops were cut into wafer thin slices, they were wonderful and light but still retained their sweet flavour and were dotted with fresh and spicy flecks of vibrant pepper sauce.
Octopus olivo is one of their specialties, and understandably so. The braised octopus, is served with organic white quinoa and Bojita olive. It is almost too beautiful to eat, almost... The octopus is melting, but crisp outside, and the unusually coloured sauce was stunning to look at and taste.
The sea bream ceviche with Tiger's milk, sweet potato, red onion, cancha corn was one of my favourite dishes of the night. The fish cooked in lemon juice was so fresh, and wrapped in the refreshing tiger's milk (a lime, coriander, chilli, ginger and garlic marinade) contrasting with the sweetness of corn crunch and crisp onion. The deep teracotta coloured puree to top was simply incredible, deep, smoked and spiced.
The final of our series of starters was the Lomo steak Huancaina - beef loin, yellow aji sauce and coriander cress. Mixing everything together on one forkful the sweet beef cooked lightly rare with crisp, spiced edgings and creamy sauce is perfection.
Intrigued to try more our quartet of intricate main courses arrived. The venison special was rich and daring with wild mushrooms and a creamy bed of potato, one of the many hundred varieties grown in Peru.
Under our server's recommendation we tried the Paiche Amazonian fish, with seaweed brown butter, annatto, white kiwicha and cacao amazonia. The unusual scattering of chocolate paired with delicate, flaking white fish was ingenious, and enhanced by the warming butter sauce which melted with the chocolate to balance every note of the dish.
The Beef Pachamanca with wild black quinoa, cusco corn, cow's milk and ahi panca juice was intriguing. An almost sponge cake of cusco corn with cows milk mousse on top. The creamy and sweet corn was a surprisingly well matched accompaniment to the marinated beef with crisp and spiced coating.
The suckling pig with giant corn, piquillo pepper and green rocoto was an absolute delight. Slow cooked pork that crumbled and melted with crisped skin and a bed of sweet corn and fiery pepper.
In addition, we nibbled on sides of 4000m Olluquito potato and quinoa solterito salad. The quinoa was a light and refreshing note. However, The 4000m Olluquito potato called so as it grows at a height of 4000m was unfortunately not for me, with a musty, mysterious aftertaste.
And of course I had to order dessert if I was to be fully prepared for my trip to Peru.
We shared the alfajores with dulce de leche ice cream and chanaca honey. The alfajores were tender, crumbly shortbread-style biscuits sandwiched by a decadent layering of dulce de leche alongside notes of cinnamon and caramel.
We also shared the Cacao porcelena piura 75% with cinnamon cream and blue potato. A generous quenelle of rich, dark chocolate ganache with delicate spears of blue potato, providing a lovely shard of texture to the creamy chocolate.
It's rare in a city like London, full of global flavours, to taste something new and original, but that's exactly what Lima provides. It takes traditional Peruvian ingredients and flavours presenting them in a proud and dynamic way.
Every meal I have in Peru will be like this? Surely? Now it's off to the real Lima to find out. Hopefully I can learn a thing or two from my host family's kitchen and discover some hidden gems on my travels!
I am an amateur cook blogging about the food I eat and cook, and my travels along the way.