Anything that sparks memories of my time spent traveling around South America is all good in my books. Those travels were a few years ago now and I long to go back. As there’s fat chance of that happening any time soon I was excited to get a dinner invite from Peruvian restaurant, Ceviche. It was going to be my first time eating Peruvian food since the trip, which I’ve mentioned a bit in a previous post. In the post, I also say that I wasn’t all that enamored with Peru’s cuisine, primarily because I’m not a big fan of raw fish and ceviche is its national dish (yeah, I know the citrus elements cook it, but it’s mostly a textural thing for me – I’m the same with smoked salmon, but strangely I’m okay with cured hams – go figure!).
Having said that though, there is a lot more to Peruvian food than ceviche, and you see this when you go to the different regions. Potatoes feature heavily, which is not surprising as it originates from there with hundreds of different varieties. Quinoa is from there too and so is the Aji Amirillo pepper. So I was hoping to see at least a couple of these key ingredients highlighted on the menu.
Ceviche, the restaurant, is the brainchild of half-Peruvian, ex DJ, Martin Morales. Inside it’s got that cool Soho vibe with dark wooden floors and dark wooded tables with bright contrasting walls dotted with a few pieces of Peruvian art posters. It actually felt more like a low-key French bistro rather than anything I’d visited on my travels – but nonetheless, it fits in nicely with the trendy surroundings.
There were four of us dining and we ordered a fair amount of dishes, which are designed to share – tapas style – with lots of small plates. The menu is well rounded and offers a lot more than the obligatory ceviche, which I was glad to see, being slightly apprehensive about trying it again.
Nibbles of tasty and crisp chicken, and cheese and chard tequeños had set the meal off nicely whilst we deliberated about what to order. In the end we opted for: Causa Santa Rosa – beetroot salad and potato cake, Alianza Lima – mixed seafood and sea bass ceviche, Carapulcra – Andean potatoes and belly pork, Paiche Amazon Fish, Quinoa Salad, Arroz con Pato – duck with rice, Huancaína Macaroni and Polpo – skewered octopus and chorizo. To drink we had Peru’s national drink – Pisco Sour and very good it was too – light, citrusy and just as delicious as I remember it being in Peru.
The food at Ceviche is quite simply, awesome! Fab, modern Peruvian food cooked brilliantly. And I needn’t have been so worried about trying the ceviche. The fish is bought fresh in the morning from Billingsgate market and then marinated in a lime marinade known as Tiger’s Milk (also the name of Martin Morales’ record label), which gives it a not too overpowering vibrant, tang. I think ‘cos it was broken up with lots of seafood rather than slabs of fish it didn’t go down too badly. But, the highlight for me and the one I felt gave a real sense of Peru was the rice that the duck was served with – beautiful authentic flavours with delicious, huge nuggets of choclo corn. I also loved the textural combinations in the Causa Santa Rosa and the nutty potato stew with rich succulent pork in the Carapulcra.
The dish that didn’t live up to the others was the quinoa salad. The quinoa itself had a gritty texture, which I’d not experienced it ever being like before, so it distracted me from enjoying it.
We all fell in love with the desserts; Cinnamon Sponge with dulche de leche ice-cream and a Peruvian Chocolate Brownie, with one of the diners proclaiming the brownie to be the best they’d ever tasted – I’m not going to argue with that.
If you’re out and about in Soho and fancy something a bit different to the norm, then Ceviche is the place for you. There are several new dishes on the menu since I was there – a good excuse to go back methinks – not that I needed one!
The average price of the dishes is £7 rising to £12 for classic favourites.
Food I Fancy dined as a guest.
17 Frith Street
London W1D 4RG
Tel: 020 7292 2040