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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.