Lima: A Peruvian restaurant in London that will make your heart sing

Joy! A lovely new restaurant where the food is great, the service friendly and the cocktails divine. Welcome to London, Lima.

Finding a restaurant that I really love is a rare thing. There are a few restaurants in London that I love to return to again and again. From local curry house Lahore Karahi in Tooting for the lamb chop masala, José or Pizarro (for sensational Iberico pluma and fino to start), Dabbous for the coddled egg, chicken wings and Iberico pork (I do love Iberico pork as you can see), and now a new addition, Lima in Rathbone Place for the ceviche, the crab, the suckling pig and the cocktails.

Pisco Sour at Lima, London

Lima opened just over a week ago. I heard about it over a year ago, and then happened to meet the chef, Virgilio Martinez, at a chefs conference at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir. We had lots of chats about food which made me want to try his even more. I finally did last week.

Following a stint at World’s 50 Best Astrid Y Gaston, Virgilio opened the much acclaimed Central Restaurante in Lima in 2010, following it with a second one in Cusco. His third restaurant is Lima in London.

Virgilio at Lima, London

The style is friendly and modern, bare tables, a bar as you enter where you can have a pisco based drink while you wait. There are no tasting menus, simply 3 courses, with talks of a set lunch menu on the way. I had high expectations, when in Argentina last year I had excellent Peruvian food and cocktails, and nowhere in London has delivered anything to match it.

I started with a Pisco Sour, a classic. It was perfect, and better than I remembered having before. A mixologist friend of mine declared it the best in London. Bread was served with rocoto and goat cheese uchucuta and butter with annato salt. The rocoto and goat cheese uchucuta was a particularly delicious mixture of soft cheese and Andean herbs, the butter was topped with annato a red peppery seed (which interestingly is often used to colour cheddar).

Sea Bream Ceviche at Lima, London

For starters, ceviche was a must. There is only one on the menu, sea bream ceviche with white tiger’s milk, sweet onion skin and inka corn (£8). Ceviche is much misunderstood with many kitchens soaking the fish for too long in a marinade that is too acidic with lime and not enough leche de tigre. This was perfectly balanced and light with beautiful fresh and tender sea bream, crisp onion skin and crispy corn. My best ceviche in London yet. We also had braised octopus al olivo with organic white quinoa and botija olive bubbles (£10). Beautifully tender octopus, crisp on the outside on a bed of quinoa with rich savoury olive emulsion. Divine.

Octopus at Lima, London

Mains are divided into Mar (sea) and Tierra (land). I love the humble potato, so couldn’t resist crab with purple corn reduction, huayro potato 4000 metres and red kiwicha (£19). I am starting to get lost for adjectives. Gorgeous and delicious sound clumsy and over stated but that is what this was. It was beautifully balanced and light. We also had confit of suckling pig with roasted amazonian cashew and lentils and pear (£20). The skin was tender as with braised Asian pork, and the flesh yielding, rich and tender. It was beautiful. We had a lovely bottle of Torrontés from Salta to wash it all down.

Crab at Lima, London

Suckling Pig at Lima, London

Desserts next. Normally I don’t care much for them but I tried cacao porcelana 75% with mango and blue potato chips (£8). The rich chocolate was smooth and delicate with super sweet gentle mango and fine blue potato chips. Again lovely and beautifully executed.

Chocolate with Mango & Blue Potato Chips, at Lima London

The prices are on the high end, but the sourcing and execution is great. Go there, and go quickly. I think Lima is going to be a very busy restaurant. I tweeted it last week and everyone who went as a result adored it. I am going back again as soon as I can.


Kenmare Food Carnival: A New Food Festival with Heart and Soul

My view over Sheen Falls from Sheen Falls Lodge in Kenmare

The west coast of Ireland is a wonderful place. Rolling green fields and an aching tortuous sky, often grey but sometimes a charming blue. The torture is that you never know whether it is going to be the nice sky, or the sad sky. That is Ireland for you. Often the grey sky meets an identical grey sea, but then sometimes charms you when it beams and pairs with billowing white clouds and a pale blue choppy sea.

Who goes to Ireland for the weather though? No one. You go to Ireland for the people, the pretty landscape, and increasingly, for the great food festivals.

We love a parade, and we love Willy Wonka, so it was inevitable that the Oompa Loompas would turn up at some point

Last week I went to Kenmare in Kerry for the new Kenmare Food Carnival. The Kerry landscape is our most dramatic, with the closest thing we have to real mountains. The wild Atlantic caresses the Kerry shores, there is bountiful produce and more than its fair share of rain, but this is what makes it so lovely. Not the rain itself but the results of it.

Kenmare is Ireland’s only town with more restaurants than pubs (I am told) with a population of approx 2000 people. The Carnival was put together by a passionate group of locals who love food and love Kenmare. I was delighted to participate with a cooking demo – based around brunch in this instance – and a book signing. For the rest of the time I was happily joining in.

Giggling at the cooking demo whilst being introduced by MC Chef Derick. Can’t remember what we were laughing at.

I was going to post about all of it now, but my *crappy* laptop, as well as having no F9 key and a work shy delete button, now no longer has a working USB port. I really need to upgrade, this crappy little thing was supposed to be a temporary fix when my Powerbook died two years ago.

So, for now, I will share the photos that I had on my phone and two from the demo donated to me by lovely Wendy who attended – thank you.

We can live with that for now, eh?

Comfort & Spice Book Signing at Kenmare Food Carnival

Darina Allen having fun while cooking up some Kenmare mussels


It is BACON O’CLOCK: Places for Next Classes Available

Bacon Jam Fudge

A brief missive, then back to cooking, restaurants & travel :)

It is bacon time again folks! Places available for classes tomorrow Thursday 12th July, Thursday 19th July & Thursday 16th August. All from 6.30 – 9.30pm at Central St Cookery School between Old St & Farrgindon. Cost £75 incl everything. All you need to do is bring your bad self.

It is bacontastic and involves making delicious candied bacon with maple syrup & tamarind (or chipotle), bacon jam, bacon jam fudge and bacon vodka.

I am hoping to do some in the Autumn too, but that may not be for a bit. It depends on how some other projects settle and I hope to know soon. For now, these are the only classes that I can plan.

I potentially will run the Comfort & Spice Homemade bread, Butter & Cheese Class again as that went really well and everyone enjoyed it. If you are specifically interested in this one it would be lovely to hear from you as I am trying to gauge interest.

Sign up or register interest by emailing me at

Reviews here:

Comfort & Spice Class Review from AT Culture / Diary of a Food Perve

Bacon Masterclass Review from Simply Splendiferous (with lovely watercolour illustrations too!)

1 comment

Come to Kenmare Food Carnival this Weekend for Comfort & Spice Brunch Masterclass!

It is a little short notice, and my apologies for that, but do come to Kenmare Food Carnival this weekend for my Comfort & Spice Brunch Masterclass. Specifically Irish readers and any others that happen to be nearby, of course :)

There is so much going on in food and drink, and one of my personal food heroes Darina Allen will be there. I will be doing my Comfort & Spice brunch demo on Sunday morning at 10am for 45 minutes with lots of grub, cooking and tips. Regular readers will know that brunch is very important to me and there is a whole chapter dedicated to it in my book. It costs only €5, you can get your tickets at Eventbrite.

Hope to see some of you there!

Kenmare Food Carnival


Recipe: Duck Ragu with Papardelle & Gremolata

Duck Ragu with Papardelle & Gremolata

Hello foul summer. Honestly, I had such hope with that glimmer of sparkling sunshine and my bright pink sunburned nose on Wednesday. This would normally bother me, but I was willing to ignore it, and wear it proudly as a sign that summer was here.

Then I woke up on Thursday and looked out the window at the all too familiar drizzle. My heart sank. I know I should be used to this, growing up in Ireland and all. Although, I did grow up in the Sunny South East (the term is very relative). I remember visiting Spanish students watching us horrified, them in their jumpers, and us Irish teenagers, swimming joyfully in the Atlantic in our togs, in the cold and the rain. It was normal for us then.

Not now though, at least not for me. I have lost my drizzle condition. I have always loved the relative lack of rain in London. Now that I am settled here and rejoicing in the lack of it, some cosmic joker has arranged that there should be nothing but rain and lots of it. Rain and that persistent pest drizzle.


What to do? Well, I need to stop typing R-A-I-N and turn to the kitchen, of course. It is definitely the season for ragu. Rich and comforting, and so very soothing. It smells like a dream and with homemade papardelle, which I promise you is so worth the effort, the rain is nothing to me, and I don’t care if I ever leave my flat again.

Which ragu? There are many. I usually make beef ragu but sometimes veal, beef and veal, pork or duck. Well, I wanted duck on Friday. It was weather for ducks after all. Boom boom.

Duck ragu delivers deep rich flavour and is relatively pain free, hands off, and delicious. There is a treasure trove of cooks treats. Crispy roast duck skin, duckie crackling, lets call it quackling (boom boom, again). The tiny brown rich bits stuck at the end of the roasting try. Which in this grim weather, or anyway, you need to scrape off and lick off your spoon. After the spoon as cooled down a little, ideally. I type with a semi blistered tongue.

I started with six duck legs, but once I had had some of the skin, I had to eat one of them. So, I recommend you roast an extra one for yourself or start making the ragu when you are not in the slightest bit hungry. Otherwise you won’t be able to resist, just like me. You may just want an extra one anyway. Why not? Just do it.

The homemade pasta was terrific but I will save that for the next post. The gremolata is a must as it lifts the deep savoury ragu and gives the dish balance. Enjoy and I hope that the next time I type my missive, the weather will be cheerier, and I will be along with it.

Roast duck legs

Recipe: Duck Ragu with Papardelle & Gremolata

Serves 4



5 duck legs
2 banana shallots, finely chopped (or one onion)
2 carrots, peeled, quartered lengthways and finely sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 x 400g tin tomatoes
500ml good duck or chicken stock (make it or as good as you can get – it makes a difference)
250ml full bodied red wine
2 bay leaves
1 star anise
a handful of fresh thyme
finely grated zest of half an orange
sea salt


Handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
the rind of one unwaxed lemon, finely shredded

1 pack of papardelle or papardelle from my next post (hold tight! :)


Preheat your oven to 180 deg C.

Arrange the duck legs on a single layer, score the skin lightly with a sharp knife every inch or so, and sprinkle the skin with some sea salt.

Roast for an hour, basting the skin with the duck fat about half way though. Raise the temperature to 225 deg C for 10 minutes to crisp the skin, and you are done.

Allow to cool slightly. While the duck is cooling, sauté the shallots and the carrots over a medium heat and in a tablespoon of the duck fat which has rendered out while the duck legs were roasting.

Remove the skin – cooks treat! – and remove the duck meat from the bones. You can use the bones for stock another time if you wish. Chop the meat and some of the skin into small pieces. I like to add some skin to the ragu too as it breaks down as the ragu cooks and it gives the sauce a beautiful deep savouriness.

When the onions and carrots are starting to soften, but not brown, about 8 – 10 minutes, add the garlic for a minute.

Add the wine, and raise the heat for a couple of minutes until the wine starts to reduce and the alcohol has cooked off. Add the stock, tomatoes, orange zest, star anise, thyme and bay leaves. Bring to just below the boil, reduce the heat to low, and cook for as long as you have, at least a couple of hours.

When the ragu is finished, remove the anise and any thyme stems. Season with sea salt, and cook the papardelle according to packet instructions until al dente.

Make the gremolata by combining the parsley, lemon and garlic. Add the papardelle to the hot ragu and combine thoroughly. Serve with the gremolata on top.


Lunch at Dabbous: the lunch you can all have, at the bar

Dabbous Bar

I can’t eat at Dabbous! So went the lament when I blogged my recent lunch there. Famously, Dabbous is booked for dinner until 2013, and for lunch, well into the Autumn. But, you can eat there. For underneath the marvellous restaurant that is Dabbous is a rather fabulous bar, Oskar’s Bar.

We popped in before lunch and I thought, why isn’t anyone talking about here? There are (great) cocktails and good looking bar food. A good playlist, it is a nice space, and everyone is really friendly.

Dabbous Bar

So, why isn’t everyone talking about it? I don’t know.

I have been back twice since. Once with a friend on a Saturday for a few cocktails and lots of chicken wings. Those chicken wings are fairly addictive, I dare you to order one portion and leave it at that. Crispy chicken wings with fenugreek and toasted garlic. What can be wrong with that? Nothing. They are boneless and a perfect bite. Some chicken fat was left behind on the slate. If I weren’t in polite company, I would have been tempted to lick it off.

Cocktails at Dabbous London

I wanted to try the black pudding, but the chicken wings were even a greedy step too far as I had already been out for lunch. Oskar advised that the black pudding would be going off the menu for Tuesday, making room for the famous coddled egg. I had to go back.

Chicken wings and cocktails at Dabbous

So, back again today (such hardship) for more chicken wings and that black pudding with homemade mango chutney and a fried hens egg. Dreamy, I am just sad I can’t have it next time.

Homemade black pudding with mango chutney and a fried hens egg

We also had Barbecued Iberico pork, savory acorn praline, turnip tops, homemade apple vinegar. A simplified version of the one on the tasting menu but really delicious and a bargain for Iberico pork at £16.

Barbecued Iberico pork, savory acorn praline, turnip tops, homemade apple vinegar at Dabbous

The cocktails are terrific. The list is fun, quirky and delicious. The disco rhubarb with Skåne akvavit, homemade rhubarb syrup and apple juice is served over crushed ice accompanied lunch today. It was fresh, and light and very summery. Previously I have had That drink with mezcal (Mezcal Vida, Platte Valley corn whiskey, Cynar, apricot brandy and passion fruit syrup stirred) – a must try for any negroni lover.

So, go there and eat, drink and be merry. I doubt it will be long before I am back for more. The coddled egg from the tasting menu is on the bar menu now and there is a wagyu steak sandwich that I just have to try.
My review of the lunch tasting menu at Dabbous

Pssst – I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago – Dabbous is closed for summer holiday at the moment but will be back in action soon, so call to check before turning up.


Beating a Fug with a Round Up: Beijing, New Zealand & South Africa

Gorgeous New Zealand – near Wanaka on the South Island

I am in a fug. Just a little one. Nothing serious.

I just peered over the parapet at a giant to do list and I now feel incapacitated. I had to cancel something I really wanted to do (go to The Stone Roses in Manchester with some friends – it is a long story). I want to run out of my house and not come back for a bit. Maybe hide on the common.

But that would be silly.

So, instead I am going to practice in a little evasive activity. I am brilliant at that (and I know that is not a good thing). Head in the sand, radio on, bopping in my chair and fantastically ignoring that thundering to do list which is booming in a corner of my brain.

There are many sections to my to do list. This job of mine, self employed as I am, has many lovely things that I enjoy. Then there are also the grim things underneath, the engine that keeps things going. The invoices, chasing invoices, pitching for work, writing proposals. The administration. It causes me to clutch my head in a Munch style Scream pose and despair. Occasionally.

My head hurts.

So briefly, some denial. And some photos. In my efforts to avoid productive activity I went through the last few months picking some highlights. I actually had to go through everything for some work stuff, so it wasn’t as evasive as I first implied. It wasn’t even evasive at all. I am deep in denial about everything. It is really a list of the things that I will be writing about over the next few weeks, a pictorial to do list, if you like. Now that the photos are edited, there are few excuses. It is a start, eh? (that eh is for you Canadians, as it is Canada Day, ahem :)

I best get back to it. I have a proposal to finish that (sadly) won’t write itself. First a coffee. Maybe an episode of Modern Family (as I finish the post I watched SIX). More evasive activity, I told you I was very, very good at it.

Peking Duck at Duck de Chine in Beijing

The best dumplings that I have ever had, and now dream of in Beijing (also at Duck de Chine and with egg yolk custard in the middle)

The inside of that glorious dumpling

With a Beijing snowman

Making noodles at The School House in Beijing

Picking vegetables for lunch with Annabel Langbein, in her garden in Wanaka, New Zealand

More lovely New Zealand

I caught a fish! (then smoked it on a beach and ate it) – in Wanaka, New Zealand

I was told HAD to try a certain burger, so I had one delivered to the airport. Decadent.

Sunburned but having a great time at a chilli farm in New Zealand

Gorgeous flowers near Capetown in South Africa

Climbing Table Mountain via Skeleton Gorge – more than a little work and mildly terrifying – those ladders in the background are enormous!

… but then not even half way up, you start to see things like this

… and then at the top, this. Gorgeous. But not again, I got the cable car back down ;)