If a preponderance of Peruvian restaurants is a peculiarity of the London dining scene, an even greater peculiarity is that some of the best have non-Peruvian chefs at the helm. At the top end, Coya in Mayfair makes this spicy, colourful cuisine sizzle in the hands of Indian culinary genius Sanjay Dwivedi, while Pachamama London brings a highly affordable, slightly Anglicised version of the genre to an attractively decked-out basement in Marylebone.
Brit Adam Rawson worked under Gordon Ramsay at Claridges and London superstar chef Nuno Mendes at Viajante before eating his way around Peru. Although his food for Pachamama has been touted as British-Peruvian fusion, it’s actually its own eclectically delicious thing – the owners are British and Russian, so inevitably their love of Peruvian food is filtered through their own tastes and cultures. You see that in the cosy, homey interior, too, which is more neutrally-hued than rival Peruvian eateries Lima in Fitzrovia and Andina in Shoreditch.
The bill of fare, however, is mostly authentic. Starters include Peru’s national dish, ceviche – fish or seafood marinated for just minutes in tiger’s milk – a fabulous blend of lime juice, chile and, in the Pachamama version made with sea bass, a crunchy sprinkling of samphire to remind us we’re in Britain. Ditto the smoked cheddar used to fill pastry cigars known as tequenos. But the chicharrones – squares of succulent grilled pork belly – shouldn’t be missed.
Peru’s favourite snacks on skewers, are traditionally speared with ox hearts, but Pachamama substitutes veal hearts or chicken breast. These are less exciting than the excellent spare ribs of saddleback pork, a steal at the £6 price for all lunch-time specials, beautifully spiced and sauced. Neither of these mains seems authentically Peruvian, even less so the delicious fried aubergine, which strikes a distinctly Middle Eastern note with its garnish of smoked yogurt, but it’s still worth ordering.
Rawson lets England take over almost completely for his take on Eton mess – suspiro de limena in which lime curd mingles with crushed meringue, the whole punctuated with a tropical lick of passion-fruit. It’s one of several yummy desserts which are rotated daily. There’s a wide variety of cocktails, but nothing washes down this food better than Peru’s national drink, a zesty Pisco sour.
I want to eat at Pachamama, where is it?
18 Thayer Street
London W1U 3JY
Tel: 020 7935 9393