Peruvian cuisine is quite new to me, I regularly indulge inPANKA, a Peruvian street food stall on the duke of York square in Chelsea, but the food is very different, big hearty portions overflowing with quinoa and chilli sauce, still its good and it made me think more about the cuisines as a whole.
The Peruvian foods is not nationalised by just one dish, a lot of it is influenced by indigenous cuisines from all over the world. Us British struggle to think of anything but a roast dinner, sausage and mash or fish and chips when a foreigner asks us what our national cuisines is, the truth is, we don’t really have one, it’s not a bad thing, it means we have a great international selection and can eat pretty much what we want in London from most corners of the earth.
We went to Lima on a Monday lunchtime, the restaurant was fairly quiet but we did start early at around midday, it had started to fill as we were leaving, mainly couples, not the office crowds I was expecting. The waiter must be mentioned, he is incredibly helpful and explained everything on the menu, which was a great help because quite frankly, none of it made any sense, it would have been a game of roulette otherwise. If you can get here early I would highly recommend the set-menu, fantastic value at £20 for three courses.
Some bright yellow bread (I’m not entirely sure what was in it to give it this colour) shortly arrived at the table accompanied by some salty butter and moorish pepper, chilli and coriander salsa which tasted incredibly fresh, I’ll be making this at home very soon to kick off a dinner party.
While we waited for the start of our set-menu to arrive we started with a sea bream ceviche, with tiger’s milk, aji limo pepper, red onion and cancha corn. The dish was presented incredibly well, a lot of thought had gone into the presentation, and not just in this dish, but to everything that arrived at our table. The sea bream was thick and meaty, but easy to cut through and the corn was delicious, much more flavoursome then the corn we have in the UK. The pepper and red onion made the dish ooze freshness. The tigers milk itself was slightly on the sour side but it definitely set my senses alight.
The sea bream tiradito in rocoto aji tiger’s milk, umami salt and giant corn was much similar to the ceviche we had to start off with but here the fish had been cured in the tigers milk and then smothered in the native pepper sauce, again the corn was delicious, whether the umami salt made a difference, that’s something we’ll probably never know. Compared to the ceviche the flavours in this dish were a lot subtler, but just as good. Portion size was a little on the small side.
Crudo pachamanca beef with algarrobo tree syrup, queso fresco and shiso sounded like it was pulled straight out of James Cameron’s Avatar movie, it made no sense to me but the helpful waiter soon explained what everything was. The beef had been marinated in orange and cooked in a pachamanca style accompanied by a brushing of the algarrobo tree syrup which has an extremely distinctive flavour, similar to dried prunes but stronger. The queso fresco cheese is incredibly light and crumbly and smooths out some of the stronger flavours, I didn’t really get much shiso (a type of mint) and I think it was more of a garnish. Another good dish, but probably my least favourite in terms of the entire meal.
The star dish of the meal was the lamb seco with lime, yellow potato and ghoa cress, it was quite simply Peruvian heaven on a plate. The lamb must have been cooked for a very long time, it was incredibly tender and its texture was somewhat similar to that of stringy pulled pork, but much moister. The fat had been caramelised and crisped up while the gravy was almost perfect, a little less salt and I wouldn’t have been able to fault it. The ghoa cress was more for presentation but it was quite citrusy, a big difference to the British cress in the supermarkets. This is one of my tastiest dishes of 2013.
While waiting for desserts I was thinking about my meal so far, it only opened the end of the last year and I can definitely see this place winning awards, maybe even a Michelin star? But unfortunately when desserts arrived at the table they just weren’t up to scratch, they didn’t reflect the rest of the menu. The dulce de leche ice cream with a beetroot crust and kiwicha was nice, but not exciting. The ice cream did have a good flavour of the dulce de leche but I didn’t really notice the beetroot crust, the kiwicha was a nice addition and certainly complimented the ice cream, unfortunately there isn’t much more to say then that.
Cacao piura porcelena with purple potato and maca root powder was another strange dessert. It was like rice pudding but more delicate and very milky. I didn’t really see the point of the small slab of chocolate floating at the bottom, it’s wasted on one mouthful, if it was melted then it would have worked. The desserts here are more like ingredients from a witchdoctors pharmacy, all good quality ingredients and very beneficial to your health, but I want pure indulgence, not health food.
Lima is a wonderful addition to the area, although it has stiff competition with people toiling over here or ceviche, Lima is completely different and refreshing, this is Peruvian fine dining in a relaxed atmosphere, If they can get their desserts right and bring it to the high standards the rest of the dishes have who knows how far this little restaurant with bold flavours can go. This is definitely one to watch.