We were always going to be first in the queue when it came to sampling a brand new ‘Peruvian kitchen and pisco bar’ that opened this month in the heart of London’s Soho.
Since the demise of Fina Estampa, there has been a big Peruvian restaurant-sized hole in the London food scene and our cravings were getting too much to bear. So we could hardly wait, and booked ourselves a lunch table at Ceviche at the earliest opportunity – in Peru, the dish of ceviche is never eaten at dinner (nor on an overcast day... but this is England, let’s be realistic).
If you’re going to publicly dedicate yourself to one dish, I can think of few better than zingy, zesty, lip-smackingly refreshing ceviche. It’s a simple dish – freshly-caught fish marinated in a citric concoction known as leche de tigre – that has been honed to perfection in the many cevicherías dotting the Lima coastline.
And, of course, if you are going to publicly dedicate yourself to one dish, you’d better do it well. Luckily our first course dispelled any doubts we could have had – the Japanese-inspired Sakura Maru salmon ceviche was sublime, and the more traditional ‘Barranco I love you’ seabass transported us straight back to Lima with the inimitable kick of Peruvian lime (both sweeter and stronger-flavoured than British varieties) and ají amarillo chilli.
Two Pisco Sour cocktails gave us a chance to be reminded of another pleasingly precise flavour of Peru. Ceviche boasts London’s first bar exclusively based around pisco, a grape brandy that is happily unavoidable wherever you go in Peru. Tart and bitter with an egg-white froth, the Pisco Sour is a taste that is surprisingly easy to acquire – though drinking more than three in a night is not to be recommended!
Next came the Causa Mar – a sort of mashed potato tower with avocado, seafood and a delicious huancaína sauce. Both aesthetically and gastronomically, causa is not a dish, I have often thought, that naturally lends itself to British sensibilities, but this dainty and well-presented portion seemed the perfect way to introduce it to our unfamiliar capital.
For our last course we plumped for anticuchos – salmon for me and, for my dining partner, the beef – which, as the faces he was pulling confirmed, was rather special. In fact as I recall, the official verdict was, “Some of the best steak I've ever had in my life.” My salmon skewers were also delectable, with a chargrilled flavour balanced by creamy, spicy dipping sauce, rounding off what had really been a first-class lunch.
Visit Ceviche at 17 Frith Street, Soho, London