London has welcomed Peruvian food with open arms and I’ve a feeling it’s a love to last forever. I’m smitten myself with favourites including Lima Floral, Chotto Matte, and Señor Ceviche. I’ve yet to visit Coya which I’ve heard nice things about. I’ve recently visited newly-opened Chicama, but of course we can’t forget about its overachiever of a sister, Pachamama.
Don’t ask me why it took me yonks to get here. I’ve been dying to go and I’m kicking myself for being late to the party. But oh, what a party it was.
Located at the end of Marylebone High Street (you can easily miss the entrance if you don’t find the A), the restaurant looked set for a party itself. It’s not that massive – I reckon it sits around 70 at most – and there’s a tasteful homey feel to the decor which I liked.
MB and I sat by the bar counter and I took it all in. The vibe was ubpeat and lively but you’re still sure to hear your companions. I liked it.
With bottles of bitters and jars of garnishes sprawled out, it would’ve been rude to not sample the cocktails.
I went for the Gastón Acurio (£9.5) which was described as an homage to the father of Peruvian gastronomy. Barsol Mosto Verde Pisco, rocoto chili, fresh lime and ginger. Contrary to my usual preferred bitter cocktails, this brought a nice refreshing flavour with a kick.
Who’s Gastón? The only son of a prominent Peruvian politician, Gaston studied law thinking he’d follow his dad’s career. However, driven by the love of cooking, he went to study culinary arts at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Upon returning to Peru, instead of pursuing Peruvian politics, he went on to revolutionise Peruvian cuisine.
*slow clap moment over here*
MB ordered the Alma Diaz (£9.5), a sweet and tangy pisco concoction made with passionfruit, sugar, lemon. Very decent, very tropical.
And then food started coming.
There’s much to say about the Peruvian fried chicken (£8). The tender fillets were absolutely juicy and the perfectly seasoned batter was on-point crispy. They serve it with an Atacama hot sauce on the side and even that was delicious. Finger-licking-good, dare I say. We were off to a good start.
Angie recommended the seabass ceviche (£9.5) and boy was it good. A generous serving of seabass chunks sat on a bed of tiger’s milk, radish, samphire, sweet potato and popped corn. The freshness of the fish was undeniable. It stole the show for me.
Darlings, believe me when I say it was a circus in your mouth. The textures, the vibrance, the flavour erupted in my palate and I wanted to cry because dishes like this come in rare waves in London.
Next to arrive was the Galician octopus (£15) which again, to my amazement, was a generous portion. Two big tentacles lay on a bed of supergrains, edamame and hazelnut. Accompanying flavours included pak choi, orange segments and caramelised aji peppers.
Overall, this was much better than Chicama’s octopus dish. The smoky octopus and pak-choi married well with the sweet yet punchy aji peppers. The orange segments gave a much needed yet well balanced citric kick. There may have been too much quinoa but I’m not one to complain.
One of the dishes that got MB & I debating was the fried aubergine (£8.5). Crumbed with pecan and served with smoked yoghurt, MB thought it was too spiced for her liking. I, on the other hand, thought it was quite decent.
Gary swore by the beef short rib ‘Pachamanca’ (£21) so we ordered this despite being full to the brim. The tender beef flaked off and it was a good, big piece, too. The sweet potato side was charred perfectly and was complemented by the tangy aji-based salsa.
We both had our eyes on the coconut & brown butter leche frita (£8.5) so we shared one. MB, usually a non-dessert eater, devoured this with much gusto. I, on the other hand, thought it was just okay. The custardy filling was plentiful but I did like the subtle coconut milk taste.
If I were to play favourites I’d say this was the better sister. Service was decent, drinks were thoughtful and the food was better – and I’m not saying that from an omnivore’s standpoint. However, bear in mind that Pachamama has had a few years to hone stuff so I’m sure Chicama can learn from this.
Overall, I liked Pachamama and I’m sure to go back. It seems like a good place to bring friends for pre-tanking or refuelling after shopping along Oxford Circus. It’s casual enough for a non-pretentious date and the cocktails are really quite tasty.