Chicama enters the London restaurant scene with much pressure. Its sister restaurant, Pachamama, has been one of London’s favourite Peruvian joints since inception. As such, one would wonder whether Chicama could equal Pachamama’s success, or even surpass it. Especially as the younger sister, located on King’s Road, does not serve meat.
Named after the small coastal town in Peru famous for its symmetrical, synchronised surfer waves, Chicamama is quaint, bright and airy. There’s a patio that makes up for great al fresco dining when the weather is on the dry side.
A couple of us visited Chicama over the weekend expecting a seafood treat with a Peruvian twist. With the soft launch menu short(er) and sweet, we decided to order pretty much everything on it, bar one or two dishes. But first, we toasted to coastal life with a bottle of Cotes de Provence Domaine du Grand Cross, 2015 (£36)
I was really curious about the popped corn monkfish cheeks (£9). I personally thought it would have a bigger wow factor because texture-wise, I knew it works. However, I felt the fish itself was slightly over so it was quite chewy when we had it. The flavour was good, though.
The crispy confit sea bass rolls (£8) were a pleasant surprise. I didn’t think much of them but they came through with much flavour. And those dollops of brown crab mayo? Hallelujah. I hate mayo, but gimme a lil brown crab fat and I’m there.
Small Plates – for the veggies
Sheepa sang praises for the milk-fed aubergine (£9) so expectations were set on a high. Boy, did this dish deliver. The perfectly cooked aubergine was still distinct beneath the plantain miso and pecan crumbs. There was a sweetness I liked, yet it was still succulently savoury. I genuinely couldn’t fault this dish.
Meanwhile, the cauliflower with smoked burrata and pine nut salt (£9) was delicious, too. I much prefer this cauli dish over the famous cauliflower steak at Palomar, even though the burrata could’ve been slightly creamier.
The charred asparagus (£9) with smoked avocado cream and cancha (aka corn nuts) was quite simple, but beautifully cooked.
First of the ceviches was the salmon tiradito (£10) which was unbelievably fresh and delicious. The aji rocoto based tiger’s milk had a decent amount of tang in it, which made the salmon star in its own right. Shaved asparagus, radish and crispy wild rice gave it good texture.
Next up was the seabass ceviche (£10). The sauce was made with coconut yuzu which I thought gave a light but creamy punch to the dish. It was the most refreshing of the three ceviches we tried, with accompaniments like cucumber and samphire. But I preferred the seabass ceviche at Pachamama.
Last but definitely not the least was the tuna poke (£12). The tiger milk served with it is aji panca based so it was darker than the salmon’s. I liked it so much as the flavour had a slight Asian taste to it and the crispy potato gave it a good crunch. There was a smoked egg yolk underneath all that tuna, too. Cute, but it could’ve gone without it and I would’ve preferred more fish.
The scallops come as the priciest small plate at £20 (you get around 4 scallops). The shellfish came perfectly cooked and the accompanying charred enoki mushrooms was texture-perfect. The plantain and apple miso just rounded the whole dish perfectly. The dish had a natural sweetness to it, but not overpoweringly so.
The blackened octopus (£17), served with confit potato, smoked cheese and cauliflower, was rather tasty. However, for the price point I expected it to be as generous as Pachamama’s.
Mains – the grilled fish
We chose to share the full seabass (£22) for mains. I had high hopes for this one, as amazing grilled seafood always take me back to seaside dining. I wanted it to to take me to Chicama resort at first flakeful bite. To begin with, I thought the quality of the fish was gorgeous. The big let-down was that it was overcooked. Darn.
All of Chicama’s grilled fish come with a bowl of squid ink rice and a small pot of fermented sweet potato or lobster chimichurri oil.
A rather intriguing dessert came in the form of a sweet potato tart (£6.50). It was interesting, to say the least. There was a subtle sweetness to it but there was also a savoury element and the texture was quite quiche-like. It was confusing, but something kept you coming back for another forkful. I liked it. Heaps.
A little less interesting was the whipped chocolate (£6.5) with blackberries and nuts. But, being the chocoholic that I am, I may have finished the whole bowl.
It’s early days, so teething problems were expected. Here’s my take:
- Ambience is pleasant. The vibe is cool and the place itself is nice, bright and airy. Good for casual date nights, or lunching with girlfriends.
- Service needs a bit of honing. It’s understandable to not completely get it all right on soft launch, but guys… breathe a bit and smile a little!
- Price-wise was average. There’s 50% off the food bill during the soft launch but we would’ve paid £50 each without. It’s not bad if you think about everything we ordered. However, I thought Pachamama gives a better deal primarily due to serving size.
- The menu is so, so, so promising. I genuinely enjoyed the food but it boils down to execution. A little more care could be done, particularly for the grilled seafood mains.
Like most siblings, Chicama and Pachamama will always be compared and contrasted. I personally prefer the latter, overall, but I genuinely believe Chicama will soon earn its own merit. It’s a good addition to the fam and I can’t wait to see it shine.
Chicama is on soft launch and is open for dinner until 31 July 2016 with 50% off food. The 72-cover restaurant will then fully open from Monday, 1 August.
383 King’s Rd, London SW10
Average spend pp: £45