London is a melting pot of world cuisine and now it has Lima to thrust seriously good Peruvian food into the spotlight.
Lima is located on Rathbone Place, a short walk from culinary hot spot Charlotte Street, and a stone’s throw from busy Oxford Street. The restaurant is a great example of modern décor done well - the space is beautifully set out. Comfortable leather sofa seating spans the periphery of the room with simple wooden tables and chairs nestled against it, and a few additional tables set in the centre of the space. The décor could easily have been boring with browns, creams and beiges dominating, but it’s all given a lift thanks to the bold and colourful statement art covering the entire far wall, and huge mirrors set on the other walls, protracting at acute angles. The real feature of the restaurant though is the huge skylight that sits above the entire room, giving an almost alfresco dining feel to Lima.
Lima has the kind of thriving, buzzy atmosphere that central London excels at. There is a sense of fun about the food here, and although the menu is carefully constructed there’s a definite feeling of passion and love for Peruvian cuisine that makes you genuinely excited about what you’re eating. This comes through from the friendly waiters who really know the menu and are able to offer recommendations if you’re unsure what makes great Peruvian grub.
With a kitchen headed up by one of Peru's (and the world's) finest chefs, Virgilio Martinez, the pedigree at Lima is pretty solid, and the modern takes on authentic Peruvian flavours showcase this pedigree very well indeed.
Ceviche, for example, is a dish often done poorly in London, so it’s worth noting just how good it is here. A sea bream ceviche with tiger’s milk (or leche de tigre - the citrus marinade that cures the fish), onion skins and inka corn is just £8 for a fine example of impeccably balanced flavours. The perfectly cooked, delicate sea bream is the highlight of the dish, and a good example of why the kitchen here is just so talented: they give every ingredient its chance to shine. For an example of the exquisite presentation that Lima is becoming famous for it’s also worth trying their braised octopus al olivo with organic white quinoa (£10). It looks absolutely stunning on the plate – more work of art than dinner – and the octopus is cooked beautifully so it’s soft and tender, allowing the flavours to shine, highlighted by the strong undertones from the olive oil.
The main courses are divided into 'Mar' and 'Tierra' – or sea and land to you and me. The highlight has to be the confit of suckling pig with roast Amazonian cashew and lentils and pear (£20). Again, it looks beautiful and the pig is a delight, with tender skin and a rich flesh. As with the other dishes, the ingredients all serve to showcase the main attraction (in this case the pig) and aren’t fussy or overpowering. Instead the flavours are bold, powerful and unusual with a distinct Peruvian feel that’s authentic instead of clichéd.
Unlike at many restaurants, the drink menu isn’t an afterthought here. It’s a good idea to start with one of their excellent cocktails, with classics or twists for under a tenner. The classic Peruvian favourite, the Pisco Sour, is especially good and makes for a great start to proceedings. During dinner, the wine menu is impressive with some well thought out South American additions, including some Argentinian bottles that are definitely worth trying. South America is starting to lead the way in new world wine, after all.
The Last Word
There may have been a few other Peruvian restaurants launching in London recently but this very impressive spot is the one to head to. Highly recommended.