Our House of Coco team are constantly on the lookout for cuisines which reflect London’s cultural diversity and wealth of creative cooking talent. Peruvian cuisine embodies these attributes perfectly and so our writers Omo and Eulanda Osagiede went to sample the weekend brunch menu at Michelin starred and multi award-winning LIMA Fitzrovia.
It’s not news to discerning London foodies that there is something special happening with Peruvian food in the nation’s capital city. London’s Peruvian gastronomic revolution, which began around 2010 has created devotees across the city, with pop-ups, restaurants and cevicherias adopting and adapting its principles from Shoreditch to Richmond.
While Londoners appreciate authentic non-native cuisines, ‘fusion food’ remains wildly popular and is perhaps the culinary approach that best reflects the city’s cultural diversity. With Peruvian flavours and ingredients as their inspiration, top chefs including the 2015 Young British Foodies Chef of The Year, Adam Rawson, proudly champion their ‘English-Peruvian’ concepts.
LIMA London establishes this interesting Peruvian niche through an innovative combination of authentic ingredients, textures, colours and flavours.
Our interest in Peruvian food had already been sparked from a previous dinner visit to Covent Garden’s LIMA Floral. However, the idea of a weekend brunch at sister establishment LIMA Fitzrovia sounded equally appealing and promised to offer a different perspective on this popular cuisine.
Stepping out from Oxford Circus station, we navigated through the typical throng of Saturday afternoon shoppers along Oxford Street, before turning into the relatively quieter back streets and Georgian houses of Fitzrovia.
Nominated by the UK Sunday Times as the ‘best place to live in London’ in 2016 and once referred to by historian Edwin Beresford Chancellor as ‘London’s Old Latin Quarter’, Fitzrovia is home to stylish bars, boutique hotels and fashionable restaurants. This seemed like the perfect location for an outpost of Latin America’s food culture.
LIMA Fitzrovia offers fine-dining in an intimate and contemporary setting. The upper floor features a skylight roof which bathes the space’s neutral colour palette in ample natural light. On arrival, we chose a table at the far corner of the room, which had a good view of the open-plan restaurant, from where we hoped to watch head chef Robert Ortiz and his team at work (he was unavailable that day).
Although a limited one hour brunch option is available, a set long-lunch option (three starters, one main course with a side and dessert) is also possible. We chose the latter.
The starters arrived in quick succession. The mixed ceviche (tuna, octopus and sea bream) was served with Cusco corn, heritage tomato and traditional tiger’s milk. The flavours of the asparagus causa (potato cakes) combined well with tree tomatoes and yellow potatoes. The winner for us was the cobia tiradito (thinly sliced uncooked fish) which was colourfully presented with yellow tiger’s milk and squid ink.
Peru’s unusual ingredients reflect that country’s multiple climate zones which include the Pacific Ocean, the Amazon and the Andes. For example, there are more than 4,000 varieties of potatoes alone grown in Peru!
LIMA Fitzrovia does a great job of capturing that eco-diversity, with each innovative dish showcasing the rich colours and flavours typically associated with Andean cuisine. The small plates packed enough wholesomeness to allow us appreciate the unique combination of flavours without taking up too much space.
As we waited for the next round of food, we worked our way through a jug of ‘bottomless’ pisco punch clasico. This cocktail, made up of Peru’s national brandy, pineapple, orange, lemon, clove and prosecco, is LIMA Fitzrovia’s adaptation on the famous pisco sour. The taste inspired discussions about how we would love to visit Peru someday to sample local versions.
For our mains, we chose two dishes: a slow-cooked lamb seco, daintily placed atop a pumpkin fritter and a hake plancha which rested on a mix of seaweed and Cusco corn purée. A side summer leaf salad with pomegranates and fresh figs completed the colourful set. We felt that all the ingredients had room to breathe with none overpowering the others.
Our curiosity led us to take a look at the à la carte lunch menu. Perhaps not wanting to offend British sensibilities, there was no cuy (Peruvian roast guinea pig) in sight. We opted for the king crab causa. The aji amarillo (chillies) added a depth of flavour and a lovely reddish colour to the potato cakes. The dish was served with green quinoa to complete the unusual flavours and presentation.
From the savoury, we journeyed towards sweetness with a desert of Peruvian doughnuts and eucalyptus syrup. Our final treat was a glass of chicha morada punch (LIMA’s version is made from a base of purple maize, pisco and aromatic spices).
Quoted in the New York Times in 2014, chef Virgilio Martinez (owner of Central, Lima – ranked fourth on the 2015 World’s 50 Best Restaurants list – and co-owner of LIMA London) reflected on London’s love for Peruvian cuisine. “I am fascinated that every time I go to London, I see how the city wants more of Peru,” he said.
Following our experience at LIMA Fitzrovia, it is easy to see why London is enamoured with Peruvian cuisine.
LIMA Fitzrovia offers a weekend brunch between 11:30 am to 12:30 pm. A set menu costs £35 per person with an additional £20 for the bottomless pisco punches or prosecco. Staff are able to advise on dietary restrictions, including gluten free options. Lima Fitzrovia, 31 Rathbone Pl, Fitzrovia, London W1T 1JH, UK, +44 20 3002 2640
Photos ©Eulanda Shead Osagiede