Can posh Peruvian plates placate our proletarian palates?
Peruvian restaurants in London are like buses – you wait ages for one, then two turn up in short order. The imaginatively named Ceviche serves up Peruvian food that is, as far as I can tell, fairly traditional. Newcomer Lima, on the other hand, takes a more modernist approach with its menu largely dominated by more contemporary versions.
Lima is split over two floors with a bright, skylit room on the ground floor and a more moodily-lit basement. I visited Lima with The Euro Hedgie a week or so after it had opened and the service is still clearly a work in progress. The maître d’ seemed taken aback by my very presence, some staff stumbled when answering basic questions about the menu and others were so meek that it was a struggle to hear them above the mild background chatter of the room. Hopefully these issues will be ironed out in time.
The bread selection at Lima is divided between unremarkable slices of white loaf and a more interesting fruity bread of which there was not enough. The accompanying cubes of salty butter and the distinctly flavoured red pepper purée went well with both.
Although several items on the menu caught my eye, I couldn’t dine at a Peruvian restaurant without trying a ceviche. Although just a starter, the portion of raw sea bream was surprisingly large. The fish was firm and fresh. The tiger’s milk marinade is citrusy, but it’s not quite as milky or zesty as the equivalent at Ceviche but it also doesn’t get in the way of enjoying the fish.
The Euro Hedgie opted for a starter that had an intriguing sounding French twist to it – duck served with foie gras and honey. Although the dish started off with the strong, bold sweetness of the honey, this quickly receded into the background on subsequent mouthfuls. A crisp saltiness was the more dominant flavour, but the cheap foie gras lacked character and the slices of duck were too thin to appreciate the texture and flavour of the meat. At least it was a large portion. Not bad.
Compared to my generously-sized sea bream ceviche, there appeared to be precious little crab meat in my main course of crab with potatoes in a purple corn reduction. Mostly head meat is used and it’s certainly fresh and sweet which is complimented well by the fluffy chunks of potato and the earthiness of the purple corn reduction.
Although the confit of suckling pig is served with roasted cashews, lentils and pears, these accompaniments didn’t leave much of an impression on the Hedgie. Although he enjoyed the thick, tender wedges of herby meat and the crisp layer of skin, he thought it needed more fat for flavour.
Cacao porcelana is supposed to be one of the finest chocolates in the world and its presence on the dessert menu instantly attracted the Hedgie’s attention. Here it was served in cubes drizzled in a mango granita and topped with blue potato crystals. To say that the Hedgie was disappointed with this dessert would be an understatement – he slammed it as a bitter disappointment and refused to eat anymore after the first few bites.
The chunks of chocolate were milky and that was all that could be said about them – their blandness is certainly disappointing but hardly inedible. I suspect the Hedgie’s scathing disdain had as much to do with his heightened anticipation at the mere mention of cacao porcelana as it did with the mediocrity of this dessert. The blue potato crystals are nothing more than funky coloured crisps and the mango granita is equally unremarkable.
My own dessert of kiwicha with sheep’s milk and a pineapple and purple corn jelly was more successful. The small grains of kiwicha in sheep’s milk looked and tasted somewhat like tapioca which is a good thing since I like tapioca. The dark purple jelly had a rich, sweet and tangy taste that in some ways reminded me more of grape than pineapple which is due to the addition of purple corn. The upper crust had a sweet delicate taste of cinnamon and more kiwicha. It’s a comforting, yet light dessert.
While I was content to wash my meal down with water, the Hedgie opted for a pisco sour. He seemed non-plussed by it, comparing it somewhat favourably to a whiskey sour but sweeter and fruitier.
Although there are some interesting ingredients in use at Lima and most of the dishes I had were good enough, they just weren’t distinctive or well executed enough to make me want to come back regularly. Although Ceviche isn’t perfect either, its more traditional take on Peruvian food is more enjoyable – for now at least.
Address: 31 Rathbone Place, Fitzrovia, London, W1T 1JH
Phone: 0203 002 2640
Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday noon-14.30 and 17.30-22.30
Total cost for one person inc drinks: £43 approx.