Peruvian food was as foreign to me as space food before Peruvian restaurants started popping up in London. Ceviche and pisco were my only references to this exotic cuisine from far away land. My first exposure to Peruvian food at Andina in Shoreditch gave me mixed feelings. My second exposure at Ceviche left me a deeper impression of the cuisine. I was hoping that Lima would show me a different angle of Peruvian produce.
I see some parallels with Peruvian and Nordic food. Both don’t have a deep culinary culture on its own but influenced by people bringing in foreign cuisine. New Nordic started as a way to interpret local ingredients much like how traditional Peruvian ingredients now are given new shapes and combinations. This might be the new exotic after New Nordic.
Virgilio Martinez is the chef behind Lima which opened in London about the same time as the other Peruvian restaurants set up in the city. He is more known for his restaurant Central in Lima which is ranked 15 in San Pellegrino’s 50 Best Restaurants in the World. Not long after opening Lima gained its first Michelin star, becoming the first Peruvian restaurant in the world with the achievement.
Little in the dining room hints that it’s a Peruvian restaurant except the menu. More than half of the ingredients were unheard of for either of us which meant a small Q&A session before we actually started to think through what to order. There is plenty of seafood options in the menu, both among the starters and mains. The mains were split into “Mar” (seafood), “Tierra” (meat) and one vegetarian option. Other than seafood potato is another ingredient that occurs in many of the dishes, though in different varieties.
We had Pisco based cocktails to get a fresh start of the meal. My Pisco Sour with a thick frothy layer on top was well balanced, though a prefer it with more bite.
Two kind of breads were offered, one based on corn (yellow) and the other on potato (purple). A mild dip of yoghurt was provided. The yellow bread also had some heat from some kind of pepper I think. Both breads were very crumbly. I prefer bread that hold together better but the flavours were interesting, especially the yellow one.
We never had this plate because it was put on our table by mistake. Nevertheless a well dressed plate.
My first thought when I saw the plate was, “this looks nice”. Flavours were mild in dish. The fish and avocado worked well. The potato felt more like a filler though adding some colour and grainy texture.
Lomo Steak Huancaina was one of Lima’s two signature dishes and rightly so. Flavours were vibrant in this plate of thinly sliced juicy beef loin. Presentation was faultless as well.
First of all, no tiger is involved in this dish. Tiger’s milk is basically liquid from the fish combined with lime. The acidity from the tiger’s milk dominates the dish and feels refreshing, almost on the edge of too much.
The Octopus Olivo was Lima’s second signature dish and also my favourite dish. There were many different flavours going on in the white quinoa and botija olive. The octopus was tender and soft, just like how it should be. The combinations of flavours made you want more. We should probably have ordered another plate of this.
The duck was well cooked and flavours were good but not as convincing as the better starters. The components felt a little bit on their own rather than creating a united dish. The cold mashed purple potato that I’m not a big fan of is yet again on the plate.
I had the Chirimoya mousse and Soft Meringue dessert. It had a mellow sweet character and was quite pleasant.
Although the Cacao Porcelana had the most humble presentation the flavours were the most interesting for me.
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We had an interesting evening at Lima. The vibrant presentations on the plates were beautifully precise. For me the value of Lima lies in the excitement of novel ingredients and flavours. I would say it’s a good restaurant even without the novelty factor but it definitely elevates the experience. It was interesting to see how so much potato worked their way into so many dishes, even desserts. The service was attentive and the waiter had the patience to explain everything on the menu. It was a bit disorganized though with food delivered to our table that was not ours and later on we were offered a second plate of octopus.
Compared with Ceviche and Andina, two other Peruvian restaurants I have tried in London Lima is going more high end, naturally with a higher price tag. Leaving the restaurant I actually didn’t have ceviche in my mind but the Octopus with quinoa, the star of the night.
For more photos from Lima, please visit my Flickr set.
31 Rathbone Place
London, W1T 1JH
Tel. +44 (20) 3002 2640