When I heard Martin Morales, the man who kickstarted the Peruvian food revolution in London, opened another Peruvian gem called Casita Andina in Soho, I knew I had to go. Martin is the brains behind Ceviche restaurants as well as the Michelin-recommended Andina in Shoreditch.
Casita Andina is inpsired by ‘picanterias’ or traditional family-run restaurants usually found in the old homes of Andes locals. The cooking here is a homage to Cusco cuisine in the Andes and aims to celebrate fresh, nutritious Peruvian ingredients paired with sustainable British produce. The menu is a gold mine for gluten-free eating, so if you’re up for some healthy alternatives this Summer (what?) this place is perfect.
The space is also peppered with all things Instagram-worthy, from textiles, contemporary art, crafts and souvenirs. It almost felt like someone’s home.
Even the toilets are given much thought from the pretty carved doors to the pretty mirrors and lighting.
Casita Andina took over The Little Cottage, a Soho institute and favourite of thespians, theatre performers and staff. The ground floor boasts of a lively bar serving the strongest pisco sours in town whilst the first floor has more seating and a tiny patio for al fresco tête-à-têtes.
I sampled the Gallo Negro (£8.5), a negroni influenced pisco cocktail whilst MB opted for the classic Pisco Sour (£8). Let me just say these aperitivos seriously kick-started the meal well. Woot!
And then the food arrived.
The cobia tiradito (£9) is gorgeous. Black king fish taste is quite distinct and it shone through a generous amount of pineapple tiger’s milk. It’s a testament to farmed produce, I think, as the freshness was absolutely apparent. Speckled with dustings of nori and chilli dust, I found this well balanced and substantial.
The Ceviche Casita (£9) was a sight to behold. Huge chunks of seabass come with avocado, sweet potato and cancha corn. The tiger’s milk is yellow as it’s made with aji amarillo chilis. They also have a classic ceviche which comes with the normal white-coloured tiger’s milk, sans avocado and corn.
The flavours are vibrant and refreshing, if not a teensy bit too zingy for my liking. Texture was spot on, But the fish was gorgeous and again, I commend the use of sustainable produce.
Last of our cold plates was the watermelon quinoa salad (£5). This may not be something for savoury palates, as the chilli-pressed watermelon with lemon-almond vinaigrette comes off sweet.
But there’s an abundance of black quinoa, peppery watercress and queso fresco to complement the sweetness. Queso fresco is a fresh, mild, creamy cow cheese perfect for salads and summer dishes. I actually had some of it with the ceviche to balance the acidity and it was yum!
First to arrive from the hot dishes section was the pork tamal (£6.5). I was excited to see tamales on the menu and had high hopes for the dish. Casita Andina’s version had pork adobo in the corn dumpling, topped with fresh tomato salsa.
I genuinely enjoyed the dish and thought the pork to dumpling ratio was good. The corn dumpling itself had lovely flavour and if I were a betting person, this could be a hit for lunch with a variety of fillings. If anything, I would advice people to eat it straight as it comes to keep in the heat and avoid dryness.
The aji de gallina (£9) came pretty, too. It’s a traditional Peruvian dish of shredded chicken in a creamy sauce made from the yellow aji amarillo chilis. Casita Andina’s offering came with hard boiled quail eggs and sauce from Botija olives, or black olives local to Peru.
I found the dish decent enough but admittedly, it was more of a grower than love at first bite. The flavours are subtle yet distinct.
The rocoto rayado (£12) was a wild card as we didn’t know what to expect. All we knew was that it was a dish of skate wing, lasagna infused with aji rocoto chili and more queso fresco.
Again, you could definitely taste the freshness of the fish and it was delightful. I definitely liked it, but perhaps I was expecting a proper skate wing instead of a deconstructed one.
For dessert, we went all healthy and ordered the mango, chia & chicha pot (£5). I didn’t think I’d like it as much as I did because I’m a chocoholic at heart. However, the fruity concoction satiated our sweet tooth cravings and we didn’t feel guilty at all.
I’m a fan of Casita Andina’s concept. I loved the fact the Andean culture richly inspired the place and it’s very apparent. Service is friendly and pretty good. The vibe caters to all types although I think the space can be quite tight when it gets super busy. Food showed good potential, and I am seriously happy to have tasted great fresh produce here.
31 Great Windmill Street, London, W1D
Average spend pp: £40