Although we’re starting to get some Peruvian restaurants in London, the UK is still very new to Peruvian food. We haven’t got a large Peruvian immigrant population, so it will likely take time to arrive fully – and I daresay we’ll never reach the saturation we have with Indian, Chinese or even Thai places. That said, with recent waves of new arrivals from Spain, and those who’d previously settled in the Iberian peninsula increasingly finding new pastures to set down their roots, the last few years have brought the UK’s first batch of Peruvian eateries to our shores.
Here are three of the first Peruvian restaurants in London:
17 Frith Street, Soho, London W1D 4RG
Best for: curious explorers looking to try a few things at once
They say: “Laid-back, fuss-free, and a little bit cheeky. Splashes of Lima’s colour and Soho’s spark.”
The spiritual home of Peruvian cooking in the UK, Ceviche is a great introduction to the country’s varied cuisine. The menu centres on small ‘tapas’ sized plates, which isn’t typical of Peru (where portions are generally unbelievably huge!) but is useful for first-timers who’d like to try a selection of different dishes.
Owner Martin Morales has hit the nail on the head design-wise, with a stylish yet relaxed feel that fits in well with its Soho neighbours, and packages Peru’s style and cuisine in a London-friendly wrapper.
We recommend the corn cakes, which have a lovely light freshness from the citrus and onion flavours. However, don’t expect Lima-sized portions – this is food meant for sharing and you’ll need to order a selection of small plates to get the most of this place.
Look out for owner Martin in the press – he’s a media-savvy guy who’s been on TV’s Saturday Kitchen, featured in numerous papers, written his own recipe book and even done a pop-up Ceviche tour of the UK spreading the Peruvian word!
31 Rathbone Place, Fitzrovia, London, W1T 1JH
Best for: fine dining fanatics
They say: “Our idea of gastronomic luxury is simply having something natural, indigenous and unique.”
Lima, the city, has experienced a gastronomic revolution in the last decade, with celebrity chefs becoming major idols of almost rockstar proportions! Whereas a few years ago, fine dining in Peru meant a visit to a fancy French restaurant, these days you’re more likely to be proudly shown a fabulous Peruvian restaurant showcasing local specialities with international-standard skill. Peruvian restaurants have sprung up as the culinary hotspots in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and the United States; and as their reputation grows, they expand ever further from home.
Lima London represents this movement’s arrival in the UK, spearheaded by Executive Chef Virgilio Martinez. Beautifully presented dishes incorporating uniquely Peruvian flavours spring off the plate with vibrancy and vigour. The Telegraph’s Matthew Johnson went crazy for Lima’s ‘sensational’ food, talking about his ‘Jehovah’s Witness’-like fervour for the place compelling him to talk about its fabulous flavours to all and sundry – high praise indeed!
We tried the halibut “chalaca”, which was served with Andean giant corn, aji amarillo, avocado oil and muña mint. The combination of flavours was something we’d never tried before and comes highly recommended if you visit.
If you’re looking to experience a true taste of typical Peru, Lima is most certainly not the place. However, for fine dining that outshines most in one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities, Lima defiantly proves that Peru has well and truly arrived as a competitor on the global gastronomic map.
18 Amelia Street, London SE17, nearest tube Elephant and Castle
No website, but you can find Emanuel on Facebook
Best for: Peru as Peruvians do
They say: “Buenos días a todos!”
A common rule-of-thumb when judging a restaurant serving foreign food is the level of popularity it enjoys with its countrymen. Here in Manchester, choosing your Chinatown restaurant will be more successful if you seek out the one where all the Chinese people gather*. In London, Peru’s equivalent is found in Emanuel’s.
Emanuel’s is where to go for those Peruvian classics that you’d eat in your favourite neighbourhood haunt back home. If you’ve ever tried a Peruvian pollo a la brasa (rotisserie chicken) you’ll be happy to hear that its Emanuel’s speciality, and you’ll also find many of the dishes that the country is most famous for, such as papa a la huancaina, aji de gallina, and lomo saltado. Of course, now you can buy aji amarillo online in the UK right here, you could also make these yourself 😉
The setting, in London’s Latino heartland of Elephant & Castle, is hardly exotic – and its location under a hotel isn’t the fanciest. That said, I’m a firm believer that the best restaurants are often the most unassuming – and if you’re of the same persuasion, Emanuel’s won’t disappoint.
This place is excellent value, with daily 3-course menus with a drink costing an average of £7 (yes, for all three courses).
Note – if you’re looking to try the rotisserie chicken, you have to pre-order. Check out their facebook page for details.*Side note: I’ve been fortunate to have visited some of Manchester’s finest (and worst!) Chinese restaurants over the years. My recommendations – if you’re in Chinatown, visit Hunan, or Pacific for dim sum (don’t bother with their Thai). If you can stretch further afield, my hands-down favourite place, and a firm favourite with the Chinese community, is Azuma – near Oxford Road, in Hulme. They haven’t got much of a web presence, and some rather dodgy Tripadvisor reviews seem to be suspiciously inconsistent… but they don’t seem to care, being full to bursting on a regular basis with loyal customers coming for the spicy chilli sea bass broth.