It’s unusual these days to come across a menu that’s totally unfamiliar. You can almost predict it. Pork belly? Check. Steak? Check. Sticky toffee pudding? Check. But the recently opened Lima, which specialises in modern Peruvian food, is so startlingly original that it feels like taking a two hour trip to Peru.
The food is wildly colourful too which makes you realise how used you are to plates of brown, white and green. Lima’s finely sliced scallops tiradito sit in a irridescent - and fiery - yellow aji (chile) emulsion. Having been to Chile and not to Peru I didn’t expect the food to be as punchy. Salmon tiradito comes with a neon orange dressing made from rocoto pepper. Braised octopus with purplish-pink 'botija olive bubbles'. It’s exactly what you need on a grey London day.
The flavours too are wonderful. Sea bream ceviche skips over your palate, all bright and citrussy, topped with crunchy corn kernels. There’s lots of corn, as you’d expect. The cancha corn parfait that accompanies the halibut like an outsize fish finger is to die for.
It was the potatoes however that I was looking forward to (Peru reputedly has over 3000 varieties) and there I was slightly disappointed. The subtleties of an exotic-sounding 'huayro potato 4000 metres' got rather lost in a mishmash of corn and crab (about the only dish that wasn’t stunningly presented). And in a dessert of chocolate with mango and blue potato crystals (below) they perched on top of little chocolate towers from which cascaded some kind of Shrek-green goo I wasn’t totally mad about. Maybe I need to be initiated into the delights of Peruvian desserts.
But the only meat dish we had: confit of suckling pig, with roasted Amazonian cashew, lentils and pear was totally delicious.
We drank pisco sours - of course. Very good pisco sours then a Chilean gewurztraminer from Matetic (which worked very well with the spicy and zingy citrus flavours of the starters) and a Chilean Carmenère from Perez Cruz (our charming waiter was Chilean and very proud of his country’s wines). I found that a bit heavy for the main courses. There are also some pretty expensive bottles in the upper echelons of the list - you can drink Tignanello with your eco dried potato stew (one dish I didn’t try) if you want but I’m not sure I’d advise it.
The other slight downside is that the room is quite small and a little cramped for the prices that are being charged though more than fair for the quality of ingredients and cooking. Expect to pay about £50 a head with wine though there’s a fixed price lunch or pre-theatre menu for £17.50 and £20 for two and three courses respectively.
Still, a lot cheaper than a trip to Peru . . .
Lima is at 31, Rathbone Place, Fitzrovia (the area just north of Soho, the other side of Oxford Street), London W1T 1JH.