Pachamama – Visit No. 2 Update

I couldn’t wait to go back to Pachamama for lunch after my hugely rewarding last visit (you can read about it here). I loved the food and I was also pleasantly surprised at what good value the lunch menu was. Each dish was priced at a mere £6. So during a spot of gift shopping along Oxford Street two days before Christmas, I decided to pop into Pachamama for a bite to each for some respite from all that Christmas craziness.

This time I tried two new dishes, starting with the lamb anticuchos which were really nicely cooked, with meat that was were tender and very tasty. Charred mackerel with bleeding tiger’s milk was also very enjoyable. The mackerel was fresh and there was a pleasant and well-balanced acidity coming through from the tiger’ milk (the citrus based marinade used in ceviche). The mackerel was cooked through so it wasn’t really a ceviche dish, but the combination worked well together.

Pachamama - Lamb anticuchos

Lamb anticuchos

Pachamama - Charred mackerel

Charred mackerel

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Peruvian restaurants are all the rage right now. At one end of the spectrum, there is the ever-busy, ever-popular crowd pleaser Ceviche. But towards the more upmarket end, there is Lima on Rathbone Street, a Peruvian restaurant that blends the traditional with the contemporary and which was recently voted as the ‘One to Watch’ at the 2012 National Restaurants Awards.

The people behind Lima include chef Virgilio Martinez, who is currently chef patron of Central restaurant in Lima, named as the best restaurant in Peru by the 2012 Summum Guide. Prior to that, he headed up the kitchen at Astrid y Gaston, a notable restaurant in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Lima’s Head chef is Virgilio’s long-time friend Robert Ortiz, who for the last five years has been part of the creative team at Central. There’s a strong cooking pedigree behind the restaurant and the menu reads like a dream – exciting, creative and enthralling with its strong use of South American ingredients. Lima is refreshing and modern in its design with an Aztec-like feel running through the restaurant.

A starter of bay scallops tiradito (raw), yellow aji emulsion, umami salt and cassava (£8) was distinctively interesting. The scallops were sweet and the emulsion added a delicate hint of spiciness to this beautifully presented, eclectic and delicious dish.

Bay scallops tiradito

Bay scallops tiradito

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Peruvian food was a barely known cuisine in London until a few months ago. All that seemed to change when half-British, half-Peruvian Martin Morales opened Ceviche back in March, a Peruvian restaurant and pisco bar on Frith Street in the heart of Soho. The restaurant is named after the famous Peruvian dish (ceviche) of raw seafood marinated in lime. Since its arrival, Ceviche has created the kind of hype that seems to suggest Peruvian food is the latest craze in old London town. In the months ahead, Morales plans to open two more Peruvian restaurants, and with that, Peruvian food seems here to stay. About time I say. Craze or no craze, as far as international cities go, London is behind the times. New Yorkers have long embraced Peruvian (fusion) food and their association with it goes way back, even before I was living in NYC more than 10 years ago.

The food at Ceviche isn’t just about ceviche. The menu is split into lots of different sections with nibbles, grills, salads and classic favourites (but sadly no guinea pig). From the nibbles, we tried the deep-fried tequeños fritters (£3.75) filled with a delicious mix of chicken and chilli. I adored the accompanying ají amarillo chilli dipping sauce which was moderately spicy and moderately sweet. However the fritter effect would have worked better had the wrapping been a little less soggy. A little bit crispier and the tequeños would have been spot-on.



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