Peruvian cuisine is the world’s hottest new trend, and outside Lima London is leading the way, with three Peruvian restaurants already in play. Of these, Ceviche is the one which has been setting Soho on fire since 2012.
Fighting your way in is the first challenge; Ceviche’s bar has a life of its own, with crowds pouring out onto Frith Street to enjoy their pisco sours. Chef-proprietor Martin Morales has perfected Peru’s native cocktail, whose frothy egg white topping gives it a resemblance to a ramos fizz, but more lemony and refreshing. Not cheap at £7 a pop, as you’ll want at least one or two more.
In the back room, decibels rise as diners fight to hear each other across the stripped floorboards packed with close-together, equally bare tables. Don Ceviche, the daddy of all Morales’s variations of the quick-marinated raw fish in citrus, in this case sea bass bathed briefly in a “tiger’s milk” of amarillo chili, is the one to try first. Another good signature dish is the quinoa and butter bean salad arranged on a layer of avocado.
Crunchy corn kernels are less familiar, ditto anticuchos – skewers of strangely-partnered ingredients thrust briefly on the barbie. Of these, the chorizo and octopus combo worked surprisingly well, with an intriguing samphire and black quinoa salad as a salty contrast. Lomo Saltado, though, turned out to be fairly ordinary pieces of steak with potatoes – not half as exotic as most of the rest of the menu.
Of desserts, the artisanal lucuma ice-cream made with a golden Andean fruit considered a superfood, is a must. There’s also chirimoya mousse and cinnamon sponge soaked in yet more pisco – but the noise level means you may not want to linger that long for a sweet slurp to wash down your raw fish, quinoa and chili. Don’t leave without visiting Soho’s quirkiest loos, decorated with wall-boxes packed with Peruvian memorabilia; this is a restaurant which celebrates the country which inspired its food and drink down to rare 60’s Latin tracks blaring out over the speakers.
Those who find their first taste of Peru intriguing may want to try their own hand at making the dishes in the serenity of their own kitchen with Morales’s new cookbook, Ceviche Peruvian Kitchen. You can pick one up at the restaurant – and however great the noise level, don’t leave without trying a pisco sour or three.
17 Frith Street, London W1D 4RG
Tel. +44 2797 2040