On a Sunday night in London, it’s Peruvian with Pisco, or Llamas with Hats

So I have come to the decision that this city sucks on a Sunday.  Take the last one gone, for example.  Led on the coach, counting down the hours until Monday, as the rain fell and Vettel carried on ruining Formula One for anyone with a personality.

OK, so none of that was London’s fault per se, but let’s go back a week.  Last Sunday started well, a quest for Tapas.  Easy, right?  A few good places, including Opera Tavern in Covent Garden and Meson Don Felipe in Waterloo, were shut.  The other one, Barrafina, in Soho, didn’t look the most welcoming place when we walked up to the door – all the chefs seemed to be having some kind of tobacco-fuelled team meeting-slash-strike on the tables outside.  Luckily, we turned one-eighty and spied Ceviche, a blue and orange facade on the other side of Frith Street.

Before I heard of Ceviche, I only associated Peru with llamas and therefore with Llamas with Hats.  Ceviche isn’t strictly tapas, but its unusual (for London) Peruvian cuisine and Pisco bar has been on my hit-list for a long time.  And yes, it was open, so we had to take a look.

The rather drab interior (imagine a student living room spruced up by some quirky Latin posters and semi-open kitchen) belies some quality touches in terms of taste and food.  The concise wine list should be ignored in favour of Pisco cocktails, ranging from the tart Pisco Sour to serious cocktail envy caused by the fruity Pisco Punch, all the way to slightly more original variations on Peru’s favourite grape brandy such as the Illapa, a citrusy little nutjob made with a personal favourite bottle, Chase Marmalade Vodka.  All were special in their own idiosyncratic way, and none disappointed.

It’s (literally) refreshing to have Pisco on offer, even though if you are after cocktails, there is little else to choose from.  In a similar vein is the Lima-inspired menu, heavily-led with seafood (hence the name of the restaurant), consisting of small plates, salads, nibbles and anticuchos (skewers, to you and I).  The food is a delightful mix of light and fluffy plates of colour and texture, alongside industrial-style barbecue.

Grab some plantain chips and fried cassava to munch while you wait for the rest, yet you’ll still be eating it when plates of sea bass ceviche, floating on chilli tiger’s milk arrive.  Salmon with satsuma is equally airy, and for a seafood-skeptic like myself, was a bit of surprising turning point in what I may order from restaurants in the future.  Kicking things back down to basics were dishes like the braised octopus and chorizo skewers, smokey and deep with flavour and blackened to perfection, as well as duck with dark beer rice, a dish so vast that it finished off the meal.  The trouble with tapas, be it from east of the Atlantic or west, is that you never know how much to order.  So you go big.

We weren’t in Ceviche for long – service is brisk and as you might imagine from anywhere with Latin fever, a little bit chaotic, but there was nothing to complain about, even the prices.  Being one of the few places open on a Sunday evening, the tables, packed close together, started to fill up rapidly so we made haste for a bar nearby.

Oh yes, that’s right.  They were all closed.

A couple of rounds of cocktails and about six plates of small bites, plus service, comes to about £ninety.  No need to spend that much on a good meal here, though.

cevicheuk.com | @cevicheuk | 0207 292 2040 | 17 Frith Street, Soho, London, W1D 4RG

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© Mike Dalley, September 2013

© Mike Dalley, September 2013

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