This post is long overdue, and I was going to say that after Christmas when you’ve been scoffing non-stop for a month (and well into January) it’s nice to have something fresh and light that’s still packed with flavour while not being remotely salad-like. But actually there’s no excuse or reason needed for a bit of ceviche, and Senor Ceviche has some of the best.
Who doesn’t love a Peruvian restaurant? Big fresh flavours, bright colours and creative combinations, it’s high on my list on favourite cuisines. A huge fan of Covent Garden’s Lima Floral since it opened, I was more than happy to drop by and sample a brand new dish, created with saving the Amazon in mind.
You may or may not be aware that it’s currently London’s first ever Pisco Sour Week, a city-wide celebration of (arguably) Peru’s most delectable export. The week-long festival follows in the footsteps of the National Pisco Sour day, which is celebrated throughout Peru on the first Saturday of February.
For the uninitiated, Pisco is a clear, unaged Peruvian brandy made from grapes, and the classic Pisco Sour combines it with lime, sugar, egg white and bitters. It was first developed in Lima in the early 1920s as an alternative to the classic Whisky Sour, and has since swept the US and Europe with its tangy, frothy charms and is gaining popularity in spades – Soho’s Chotto Matte makes upwards of 500 of them per week, eclipsing mojito sales.
I headed to Chotto Matte for a little lesson in all things Pisco, and indulged in a masterclass with excellent Bar Manager Fabiano. Draped in an authentic poncho, I whipped up the classic sour, as well as a pineapple and coconut version. My favourite was the Jasmine Tea Sour, made with home-infused jasmine Pisco, which had a subtle flowery aftertaste that still packed the punch of the original. They are all on the menu at Chotto Matte and should be sampled by everyone who enjoys a cocktail. You might as well order some snacks too – the Nikkei (Peruvian and Japanese) dishes are extremely tasty.
Also involved in the festivities is the beautiful Coya in Mayfair, and they’ve just launched their new Pisco flight to celebrate. Consisting of raspberry & thyme, rhubarb and Williams’s pear flavours, the selection is delicious and a great way to sample the various possible incarnations of the spirit. You can try the flight for £15. Combined with their heavenly food and service, Coya is the place for a slightly posher Pisco experience.
Lima Floral, Senor Ceviche, Tito’s, Tierra Peru and Pachamama are all part of the festival and you can pick up a wristband at any of them that will get you £5 Pisco Sours all week, so there’s no excuse to miss out.
Pisco Sour Week continues until Sunday 8th February, there’s no website but search #LPSW for more info.
*A version of this post first appeared on the fabulous Foodepedia
“I can smell the toilet!”
“It’s just over here madam”
“Yes I know, I said I can SMELL it”
Emily’s first impression was perhaps not the most promising start to drinks and dinner at Lima Covent Garden, as she joined me in the basement bar of the Floral Street outpost. After a couple of drinks in said bar we headed up to the (more fragrant) restaurant – the second Peruvian in London from Virgilio Martinez and follow up to Michelin-starred Lima in Fitzrovia. The menu looked great (phew – nothing like the smell of wee AND a crap menu) and we mostly went with recommendations from our wonderful Ecuadorian waiter Hector.
We went with sea bream ceviche to start, which was big, meaty chunks of firm white fish, sitting in a bowl of tiger’s milk with avocado and fine, crispy red onion hoops on top. Tiger’s milk, or leche de tigre is the Peruvian term for the marinade used to cure the raw fish and create the ceviche dish, and is normally made from lime juice, chillies, sliced onion and some of the juice from the fish. We were reliably informed by Hector that in Peru they drink it to cure hangovers, have it a LOT spicier, and this version had been toned down for the UK palette. Made me want it hotter to be honest, but probably wise not to go there – I’ve learned not to argue with South Americans about tolerance for heat, or ever try and get into a competition over it. Anyway, it was so good I had to force myself not to drink the end bit from the bowl, and instead made do with rapidly scooping it into my mouth with the tiny spoon, like a desperate, hungry borrower.
Our other starter was a plate of tuna Nikkei – raw tuna, another dribble of the leche de tigre, samphire and little shavings of radish – a beautiful dish that was delicate but still packed a punch with the marinade. Small portions, a tenner each but perfect starters.
We balanced out the fishy first course with meat – rare, tender, juicy meat with all manner of delicious accompaniments. Beef sudado (main photo) was pieces of pink beef with a salty, herby quinoa stew, while the organic lamb rump was served rare again, and with a fresh minty yoghurt and fried potato strips. It also came with small cubes of potato in a cheesy sauce and perfectly seasoned, nutty black quinoa – all incredibly good.
The house Spanish Grenache was light and fruity, great with the spicy fish and robust enough to still be tasty with lamb and beef. A huge fan of sour cocktails, I meant to sample their pisco sours but totally forgot – obviously the wine was good enough to erase this intention from my contented little mind.
Lima Covent Garden was the ideal spot for a non-festive festive dinner: food is delicious without being rich and heavy, staff are a delight and it doesn’t break the bank (although at £50 a head it’s probably not an everyday place). I’m not surprised it’s big brother in Rathbone Place has a Michelin star, and while Floral Street is billed as an evolution rather than a copy (read cheaper and more casual) the standard is still impeccable.