The blend of two cultures
Lima is a cheerfully casual restaurant that emulates the fun and pride of South America. The cuisine is playful, beautiful and, to a great number of Londoners, exotic. Virgilio Martinez, the patron chef of Lima, was a law student, who with a change of heart, has turned chef. Virgilio headed the kitchen brigade at one of Peru’s most internationally renowned restaurants Astrid y Gaston and moved on to open his acclaimed innovative restaurant Centrale. The cuisine served in Peru is inventive and with indigenous Peruvian produce. Lima London, overseen by Virgilio and run by his long time friend and colleague Robert Ortiz, is instead a blend of two cultures – Peruvian and British. While key Peruvian produce, notably various kinds of chilli and eco dried potatoes, are imported to maintain the crucial cultural links and taste to the mother land, British produce are the main vehicles of the menu. Starters are priced between £7-12; mains £16-24; desserts £6-8. There is also a decent selection of cocktails.
Colours of Peru
Dishes at Lima are spectacular polychrome of colours – (and sometimes they can look more exotic than they taste) – but big comfort in taste. Slivers of Artichokes was very much like a painting. The combination of emulsions – tamarillo and molle pink pepper – was mellow; the green lime provided citric sharpness to contrast; the fava beans were biteful and sweet. The artichokes themselves were understated in taste but became vehicles for the lovable dressing. Causa – one of the most traditional Peruvian dishes – is a dressed seafood mix served on a bed of (or sandwiched between) crushed potato cake. The version at Lima was chopped and seasoned sea bass with minty red shiso garnish and zingy avocado paste. Not the most satisfying, and though a causa is predominantly a potato dish, I would have liked to taste more of the fish. Sea Bream Ceviche, on the contrary, was wonderful. The tiger’s milk dressing was tangy and exuberant; the fresh bream was perfectly *cooked* by the acidity; the sweet and crispy onion skins added an aftertaste and texture of sweetness. Duck Crudo was also pleasant, possessing a taste more recognizable as European. The thinly sliced duck was deliciously meaty and almost livery; the algarrobo tea honey reminded me of sweet balsamic vinegar; the cress was refreshing. All were enriched by the shaved foie gras. Personally, as the dish was quite big, I would have liked more texture contrast or something to mediate the richness of the dish.
Braised octopus al olivio was the dish I can reprise many times and highly recommend. (Been twice and had this twice)! The octopus was tender, boast a perfect char and possessed a great length of taste. The white quinoa was carefully dressed with herbs. The mayo-like Botija olive bubbles was pungent, encapsulating the bold salty-and-sourness of olives that turned quite a bomb with the octopus. (FYI Peruvian Botija olives are also very popular *health food* often found dried and tasting incredible)! Also highly recommended for food enthusiasts were the potato dishes at Lima, as these were prepared using Peru’s unique “eco-dried potatoes” or The Chuño. The Chuño or tunta are potatoes traditionally left to naturally freeze-dry at nights in the Andes, 3000++ metres above the sea level, washed and then dried again on grass. The results are rock solid potatoes with its exterior turning white and chalky in texture. Before re-hydration, they also smell a bit like cheese. At Lima, I tried Eco dried potato stew which came with an assortment of leaves and flowers and finished with aji panca jus. The crushed and re-hydrated potatoes were big in potato-y taste. They also retained a somewhat biteful denseness typical of dried and re-hydrated produce. (Fresh potatoes when boiled don’t quite have this texture). The garnish, however, did not provide much depth or unison to the dish as a whole. Crab with eco dried potatoes and corn reduction was a good dish that cried out for more crab meat. Here the potatoes were crushed and cooked as if a risotto with crab and corn. I liked the juxtaposition of sweetness from the corn and the sea-perfumed crab, but as said, I would have liked a little more crab. Confit of suckling pig brought me back to the comfort not-so-exotic zone of taste. The pig was crispy on the outside and packed with good flavours; the braised lentils were bold and umami-fied; the pear puree lent a sweet fruity note. The desserts, sadly, were not astonishing as the mains. Dulce de leche with maca root crumble and beetroot was the highlight for me, while Andean Kiwicha with sheep milk and purple corn jelly was weak.
31 Rathbone Place
Tel. 020 3002 2640