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Friday 5 September 2014

Lima Floral - Peruvian Encore in Covent Garden

Where: 14 Garrick Street (Floral Street entrance), Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9BJ, http://www.limafloral.com

Cost: The menu is small, with a choice of 8 starters priced from £7-10, and 7 mains from £15 to £24. Peruvian cocktails are priced from £7.50 to £10. Wines are priced from £19 upwards.

About: Opened in July 2014, this is the second London restaurant for Peruvian superstar chef Virgilio Martinez, and the latest one in an expanding group. His first London restaurant in Fitzrovia Lima London gained a Michelin star within months of opening, and the flagship Central in Lima is currently ranked number 15 in the 2014 San Pelligrino 50 Best Restaurants of the World list.

A little more casual than Lima London in Fitzrovia (reviewed here and here), the new addition aims to have a relaxed environment in a restaurant of 60 covers and a basement bar serving a selection of Peruvian piqueos (tapas), as well as Pisco Sours and other cocktails.

Having confirmed my booking that day, we were surprised to learn as we arrived at the restaurant that no table had been reserved for us. The staff however were helpful and it did not take them too long to find us a table.

What We Ate: Before ordering, we were served some crusty bread with a creamy sauce of maca (Peruvian root, a super food known locally as the Peruvian Viagra), mayonnaise, coriander and olive oil.

For starters, we had the Sea Bream Ceviche (£10) and the Escabeche Salad (£10). The ceviche had leche de tigre (the ceviche juices used to marinade the fish), creamed avocado, crispy onions and cancha corn.  This was good, with fresh fish that had been marinated just the right amount of time, with an exhilarating zing from the lime and lovely crunchy elements from the onions and fragments of corn.

We wanted to order the tiradito, but were disappointed to learn that both the ceviche and tiradito were made from sea bream, which we thought was a bit limiting. I’ll have to order the tiradito on my next visit.

The escabeche salad was described as having 'beef crudo' (crudo as in raw) with algarroba syrup (also known as Peruvian carob, algarroba is an extract from the pods of the mesquite tree). The beef was in fact served seared and pink, cut into thin slices with a dressed herb salad. This dish was disappointing and unexceptional.

For mains, we started with the Grilled Monkfish (£20) – and again I was in for a surprise – expecting grilled fish, I was instead served a bowl of broth containing the promised monkfish with aji amarillo, courgette, green and red leche de tigre, herbs and green leaves. The broth was fragrant, delicately flavoured and lightly spiced, and delicious I must admit. There were some generous nuggets of meaty monkfish and crunchy vegetables, it was a very lovely dish.

Next was the Rump of Organic Lamb (£22) accompanied by dried potato, queso fresco, black quinoa and crispy blue potato. This was an excellent choice - the lamb was very tender and well seasoned.

The side dish of dried Andean potato with a cream of sweet cancha corn and toasted quinoa was utterly delicious, and a great illustration of why there is such excitement about the 'superfoods' and unique produce of the high Andes in Peru.

There is a choice of four Peruvian desserts, all priced at £6. We opted for the Suspiro Ardiente, and the Chirimoya.

The Suspiro was made from dulce de leche, beetroot, dry Limo chilli pepper.  Despite the total lack of beetroot flavour, it had an intense purple colour from the vegetable.  The thin sheets of meringue were infused with slices of chillies, the heat, sweetness and constrasting textures making for a delicious dessert.

The Chirimoya dessert was made from chirimoya (custard apple) mousse, maca root and purple potato. Served with a crumble of maca root, this had dried crisps of purple potato, making for an intriguing, unusual but delicious native South American dessert.

What We Drank: To start our evening, we had a couple of cocktails. The Maracuya Pisco Sour £9.50 was made with Pisco, passion fruit, lime, sugar, egg white and Angostura bitters. This was delicious and very well made, with the classic frothy head.

The Casi Peruano (£8.50), made from Pisco, Campari, sweet vermouth, lime, tonic water and bitter orange was even better, with real appetite-stimulating astringency from the Campari and bitter orange.

The wine list starts at entry level with a South African Chenin Blanc for £19, and a Spanish Garnacha/Tempranillo blend also for £19. It includes a white and a red option from Peru, but otherwise is very international, while including several bottles from Argentina, Chile and two Uruguayan red wines.

We opted for a bottle of Gotes 2012, from Priorat, Spain (£31). This was straightforward, slightly purple reflecting its youth, fruit driven, and with very soft tannins.

Likes: Both the main dishes we had were excellent, and the sea bream ceviche was well flavoured. There is a good selection of Peruvian cocktails, and service is friendly and informed, and our waiter Karell was happy to take any questions he could not answer to the kitchen.

Dislikes: The acoustics are not ideal, with low ceilings, and no fabrics on the tables or floors to soak up sound. This means that the room reflects and amplifies all the chatter and clatter of the restaurant, making it quite difficult to hold a conversation without raising the voice.  Tables are fairly tightly packed. The menu descriptions were somewhat lacking if not misleading.

Verdict: These are early days, but Lima Floral is a promising addition to the growing range of Peruvian restaurants in London. It features a selection of authentic Peruvian and Andean ingredients normally only found in South America, along with great British organic meat and fish. Recommended.

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