When I read about the growth of Peruvian food in some article or another about a year ago, I dismissed this out of hand. The little I knew I of Peruvian food revolved around roasted guinea pigs and fish smothered in some sort of strange limey concoction, and had no idea how this food fad could justifiably develop into a "trend". Can't say that seemed too appealing and read on about burgers and the rise of all things USA.
A year later, and although I still wouldn't call it a trend, we have two well respected Peruvian restaurants in London, peddling all things Pisco and Ceviche. I like Pisco, it's one of those drinks which gives a punch in the ribs, but then caresses your lips with a sweet kiss, making up for all it's misdemeanours. Whilst I had no real impetus to visit Ceviche when it opened (even it's pisco bar couldn't draw me in), I was pretty intrigued by Lima. I mean, two Peruvian restaurants opening in London must mean something, right? Without sounding too weird, I was partly intrigued by head chefs Virgilio Martinezs frankly awesome moustache (as displayed on the first page of the restaurant website, as I was his approach to a Peruvian fine dining experience. What I had seen of his food had illustrated a combination of intriguing ingredients and beautiful presentation.
I found the interior a little lacking, with a massive skylight dominating the main room, with a strange array of mirrors and a glut of cushions lining the sides. It all sadly felt a little soulless and started to feel a it cramped when more people arrived (although they do appear to have another room downstairs for bigger tables). What the room lacked in character was made up immediately by the service. Warm and welcoming, even Virgilio gave us a smile as we were shown to our table. I can't say enough nice things about our waitress, always there when we needed her, answered questions when we asked and always with a smile. It never ceases to amaze me what a simple little smile can do.
Now the menu, if I had thought that the menu at Roganic contained an array of strange and wonderful ingredients, Limas menu was on the same level. Aji pepper, Andean cancha corn, amazon tree tomato, pink molle, blue potato and more wonderful and colourful ingredients. Out of all the food I ate, there was only really one dud in my eyes. The bay scallop tiradito was a little one dimensional and bland, with none of the delicate sweetness I would expect from the scallops coming through. The sea bream ceviche on the other hand was stunning. The "tigers milk" that the fish had been cured in was smooth and full of citrus, yet not overpowering the subtle flavour of the fresh and firm fish. Pairing it with the toasted corn kernels and fried onions was wonderful, adding a contrast in texture and sweetness. Blinding.
An extra shared starter of artichoke hearts arrived elaborately presented, full of bright vibrant colours. The dish itself was very delicate, with the less familiar flavors of pink molle and Amazon tree tomato not clouding but complementing the artichoke hearts.
As for the mains, I really enjoyed them too. Although the suckling pig was slightly underseasoned, it was soft and porky with a crisp crunch coming from the perfectly cooked crackling. The slow cooked lamb was even better, rich and meaty accompanied by pisco soaked grapes to give it contrast. All the food was just so well executed, familiar dishes lifted by the addition of some innovative flavours and ingredients..
I finished with a rich chocolate dessert, served with a light mango granita and what seemed to be blue potato crisps. Not really sure potato has any place on a dessert, but I guess they were just trying to add a contrast in texture (and personally I would drop it). The hunks of chocolate were rich, decadent and hit the spot.
Lima certainly takes you on a journey with its blend of modern cooking and Peruvian flavours. I enjoyed it but when the bill came, I was reminded of the extravagance of some of these quite unique ingredients. The cost came in at the upper bracket, hovering around £50 a head with one drink and a shared dessert. Pricy but decent, so leaving me a bit torn. In my head, I will come back, to have more of that lamb and ceviche and all the other interesting looking dishes. In my heart, I have more chance of saving for a flight to Peru and eating guinea pig.
Lima - 31 Rathbone Place, W1T 1JH