17 Frith Street, W1D 4RG
Spearheading the new wave of Peruvian food in Central London, Ceviche has taken up its spot in the newly invigorated (some would say gentrified) Dean and Frith Street in Soho. Every week there seems to be a new batch of mid-range venues being added as opposed to the traditionally pricier restaurants that have opened in the past 5 years. Always one of the most open-minded of areas in London, it's good to see some interesting new cuisines appearing in this dynamic quarter.
Within South America, Peru has a reputation for being very much a foodie country, combining many different kinds of starchy vegetables (including a bewildering selection of potatoes and sweet potatoes) from the fertile sacred valley inland with some of the world's finest fish from the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean. Ceviche has taken up a theme of a pisco bar, that is to say a tapas bar (with tapas portions to boot) serving Peruvian food. Needless to say there is an equally strong focus on the alcohol side, especially at the bar area at the front.
|Yucas (Fried Cassava with Huancaina sauce)|
We started off by taking our seats at the ceviche bar and ordering a couple of Pisco sours, the famous Andean cocktail. It was more egg white foam than liquid, but at £5.50 was not bad value for a cocktail in London. With the drink we ordered some Yucas, which were basically cassava fries with a Huancaina sauce, which is similar to a mayonnaise but has a slightly cheesy taste to it. I love cassava so I enjoyed this dish, but more as a bar snack than as a dish that contributed overall to the meal.
Next up was the ceviche (we chose the Don Ceviche). What would this place be without a good ceviche? Thankfully it lived up to the billing, achieving the necessary balance of complex flavours (sweet, sour, bitter, salty) that is so hard to achieve without compromising the meaty taste of the fresh, raw sea bass. I was really impressed with the ceviche overall, it compared favourably to what I had tasted in Lima. At £7, I would say the dish was fairly priced as good quality, raw fish deserves its high premium.
Next up, we had the octopus skewer. This consisted of two skewers of chargrilled octopus interspersed with chorizo. The main problem with this dish for me was that I felt the amount of octopus given compared to chorizo was not enough, especially considering the £10 charged for the dish. The picture above does make the skewers look bigger than they are but this really was a small portion. It's truly a shame, because the octopus was cooked absolutely beautifully, it was robustly charred and smokey but still remarkably tender.
|Ensalada de Quinoa|
Ensalada de Quinoa followed, which was pleasant enough. I have to say I wasn't really wowed over by the dish. It reminded me of a similar dish which we had in Andina (in Portland, Oregon) where they reinterpreted the classic Lebanese Tabbouleh with Andean ingredients. This one was a bit less original, especially now that you find quinoa so commonly in salads in London.
|Barranco I Love You (Tiradito)|
Tiradito was actually my favourite raw fish dish when I visited Peru. It's a true Peruvian-Japanese fusion, where sashimi slices of fish are combined with a milky, thick citrus sauce, and counteracted with a significant amount of heat from the local red chilies. The version on offer at Ceviche (called Barranco I Love You) was good, but I didn't find that the flavour combinations were assembled as successfully as in the ceviche dish. Whereas that dish compared favourably to what you find in Lima, this one was not quite in the same league. Still, if you haven't tried Tiradito before, it is worth trying this one to get an idea of what the flavour combination is like.
The causa mar is a sort of Peruvian equivalent of a jacket potato, consisting of a mashed potato combined with a choice of toppings. In this case, the potato was topped with a prawn cocktail, avocado and Huancaina sauce. The dish was tasty, but it wasn't anything particularly Peruvian about this dish I would say. Again it was more of a bar snack than part of the meal as such.
|Chocolate Physalis Volador|
All in all, It was the value overall that was a slight let-down for me. I'm not someone who usually complains about portion sizes, but it did not feel substantial enough for the price that we paid overall for the meal. I think they attempt to run at a price point and in the style of something like Polpo or Salt Yard, where the prices are justified by using high quality ingredients that can be hard to get hold of. However, I am glad that there is a local Peruvian restaurant now in London. Hopefully there will be more that follow, but it would be nice if they would run at a slightly lower price point, even if the dishes are slightly less elaborate. The next time I go to Ceviche, I would be inclined to treat it more as a bar with very good small eats (the ceviche is definitely the stand-out dish) rather than a restaurant on its own.