I have a dream…a dream where South American food is craved by the British public and is firmly set within the British psyche. We’re taking our time, but the UK is finally starting to take an interest in the latest international cuisine to find itself higher up on the food agenda.
There’s definitely still a long way to go. For example, the first thing I thought about when I woke up on Saturday morning was my lunch reservation at the new and trendy Ceviche, Soho’s latest Peruvian restaurant.
Having tried to get a reservation on a Thursday or Friday night numerous times over the past few months (gold dust), I was genuinely anxious to finally visit this exciting new place. I’d even managed to get a group booking! Yes, I was actually going to be able to introduce Peruvian food to my university friends!
Imagine my dismay, then, when some of the lunch party text me saying that they weren’t sure that they “fancied” Peruvian, so would go somewhere else instead…
Apart from the understandable offence that I took to a last minute cancellation, I don’t really know what they were expecting from Ceviche. I’d sent them the menu a couple of days before; there’s no Guinea pig or carb-heavy stews on the menu. Far from it in fact. What could they possibly not fancy?!
Anyway, enough of that. Peruvian food clearly still has a long way to go before people really understand what it’s about, and how great it can be. It’s not all rice and potatoes, stews and meat on the bone, at least not in Lima. Hopefully Ceviche will help entice more people to experiment with the food of Peru.
Ceviche – Peruvian Kitchen and Pisco Bar is the new restaurant located on Frith Street in Soho. Founded by Peru-born Martin Morales and opened in February this year, Ceviche brings Peruvian food to life; showcasing its diversity, colour and flavour in a basic but beautifully creative way.
It has a simple black exterior and an equally simple but charming decor inside. With a long bar to the right as you enter, Ceviche instantly feels more like a ‘Pisco Bar’ than a restaurant. There are place settings set up at the bar, and the chefs are busy at work creating fresh ceviche plates in front of your eyes. We were sat towards the back, in the main restaurant area, still decked out in tall tables and bar stools. This is meant to be a casual, friendly place to catch a quick bite to eat, or to socialise over delicious Pisco Sours.
The Pisco Sour is a must-have if you haven’t tried one before. It’s made with the Peruvian brandy Pisco, lime juice, sugar and egg whites, all whisked up to make a short, thick, frothy cocktail with a citrus kick.
The star of the Ceviche show is, of course, the ceviche. Raw sea-bass, salmon and other seafood made delicious by the zesty marinades. The menu offers a tapas dining experience, recommending three or four plates each. We had three different types of ceviche.
The Don Ceviche is exactly that: the daddy of all ceviche, and boy does it blow your mind. The fish is cooked to perfection, with a soft silky texture and served with the delicate and zesty amarillo chilli tiger’s milk. The other sea bass dish was served in thin ‘tiradito’ slices, with a sweeter green mango sauce.But most impressive in my eyes, was the Sakura Maru; slices of salmon ceviche served with a sauce of satsumas and soy, with a uniquely Japanese sushi feel.
Of course, it needs to be said that whilst the ceviche is the highlight of the menu, there are many non-fish dishes to choose from. It wouldn’t be Peruvian without potato, and the Causa Mar is simply delicious, with the creamy mashed potato, avocado and seafood on top. The Causa Santa Rosa offers an inspired alternative, with green coriander potato cake topped with bright purple beetroot salad, avocado and a sweet potato crisp. The colours were dazzling and the taste lived up to the image. Accompanied with some Yuca fries, creamy Huancaina dip and salty Cancha corn kernels to pick at, it was a beautiful and delicious feast.
I really can’t fault them to be quite honest. I liked the way that it is Peruvian food served with a tapas twist; it almost feels like you’re eating sushi, but it’s so so much better.
We were there at lunch time, which was still busy in the back room, but I can only imagine the great atmosphere in the evenings. Cocktails flowing, tapas dishes being continually served to perfection and friendly, helpful staff – what more could you want? Sure, there’s a little bit of a price tag, considering the size of the dishes, but you’re paying for authentic quality, in both the ingredients and the presentation.
Martin Morales, I salute you. Along with your friendly team, great atmosphere and an inspiring menu, your vision of Peruvian food may just be the thing to make people interested. It’s special, it’s trendy, it’s arty and it’s delicious. You’ll be seeing me again, for sure (hopefully when I can secure a coveted table on a Friday night and sample more cocktails). Ceviche gets two very big thumbs up from me – I’ll fancy Peruvian everyday from now on.
(Author’s Note: no friendships were harmed during the making of this review. The only sour grapes were those in my Pisco Sour.)Ceviche Peruvian Kitchen and Pisco Bar, 17 Frith Street, Soho, London W1D 4RG Tel: 020 7292 2040 www.cevicheuk.com
Price: approx £25 per head (food only)