Ceviche (London)


On the 4th of July I have a review of a Peruvian restaurant in London. You’re welcome, America!

Ceviche, on Frith St. in Soho (there’s another location in Shoreditch), apparently spearheaded a mini-boom in Peruvian food when it opened a few years ago. I don’t know about any of that as this is the only Peruvian restaurant we ate at in London and we only happened on it by chance. We were sitting outside Hoppers, waiting for a table, and noticed it across the street—we ambled over to take a look at the menu, which looked interesting, and decided to come back the following week. Later I learned that the same Time Out list that has Barrafina as London’s top restaurant also has Ceviche ranked in the top 10 (and Hoppers too). Well, I don’t know that I would put it in the top 10 of the small subset of London restaurants I’ve eaten at but we did enjoy our meal.

I should say first of all that what I know about Peruvian food would fit on one of the tiny corn cakes they serve at Ceviche and still leave a lot of room for toppings. I cannot in any way speak to how traditional the food we ate is or isn’t; I can only tell you what we thought of it. I can also tell you that though this is a trendy restaurant, if you manage to go at lunch you will have no trouble getting a seat at the long counter in the front of the restaurant. We were two of maybe four or five customers there between 1 and 2.30 pm. There is another dining room in the back, with tables, and it was busier. We were told that at dinner it starts filling up by 6 pm.

It’s a bright, attractive space and they’ve gone all-in on the Peruvian signifiers. The music is Peruvian—and CDs and LPs are on sale—and their Pisco sours are apparently very good (I did not have one so cannot confirm). The staff are friendly and happy to make suggestions. We decided to sample across the menu and ended up hitting every category but dessert (as we were full by the time we got there). The food is served as shareable small plates. In what may or may not be a further sign of their hipster appeal every vegetarian or gluten free dish is marked as such.

What we ate:

  • Olives, marinated plump Peruvian tree-ripened black olives: We got these to munch on while perusing the menu and they were nice enough.
  • Tuna Tacna, yellowfin tuna, choclo corn tamal, black Peruvian olive sauce: Nice corn cakes topped with marinated, chopped ahi and sitting on a purple puree of black olives. Quite good.
  • Don Ceviche, fresh sea bass, amarillo chilli tiger’s milk, limo chilli, sweet potato, red onion: Their signature ceviche, this appears to continually be in production (we were seated in front of the chef who prepares the ceviches). Very good.
  • Camarón Palteado, king prawn and rocoto chilli salad, avocado, black quinoa, sweet potato crisps: I really liked the interplay of the avocado, the chilli sauce and the sweet potato crisps but the shrimp seemed to get a little lost with all of that. (This was listed on the wall as a spring menu special but seems to continue on the current menu on their website.)
  • Pulpo al Olivo, marinated grilled octopus, lentils uchucuta and Peruvian black sauce: Served with more of that purple pureed olive sauce, this was dynamite.
  • Pepian de Lengua, braised ox tongue, panca and peanut sauce, turmeric rice: This was also on the spring special board and no longer seems to be on the menu. We were expecting to love it but did not. This because the tongues was variably braised: some of one piece was tender, the rest was too chewy. The sauce and rice were good though.
  • Ensalada de Quinoa, white quinoa, tomato, avocado, butter bean and coriander with lime and limo chilli vinaigrette: We were talked into this by our server (who also doubled as bartender) and it was one of the highlights of the meal. Perfectly cooked quinoa, studded with butter beans on a tart citrus-chilli vinaigrette.

 

So, the tongue aside, there were no disappointments and quite a few highlights (and portion sizes were not tiny). My credit card statement tells me this came to £60 all-in. Now, I suppose that in London that’s reasonable enough for a meal where four out of seven dishes centered on seafood but I think that if I lived there I’d probably only stop in here for a quick ceviche or salad from time to time. For full-on lunch I’d rather spend less at Hoppers across the street. A very tasty meal though and I can see why Ceviche is so popular, even if I can’t see myself waiting an hour to eat there at dinner.

Next up from London eating: the aforementioned lunch at Hoppers. But before that I’ll have my first Scotland food report.

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