Let’s pretend for a minute that no one in London has been waiting for Ceviche to open for, ooh, ages… That Martin Morales, proud owner of this jaunty, pretty well authentic Peruvian restaurant and bar, surprised us all by landing in Soho at the end of February.
Hmm, a new place to eat near our favourites, Koya, Barrafina and the soon-to-relocate Polpetto. Why, what a dark, mysterious exterior… Let’s take a closer look. ‘Peruvian Kitchen, Pisco Bar’. What the…! The menu kicks off with marinated fish, goes onto beef heart skewers, and there’s chilli-infused pisco on the drinks list? Ooh.
Really, though, Peruvian food has been threatening to be the next big thing in London for quite a while (at least two other restaurateurs are coming atcha with ceviche and pisco this year), so we’ve read up a bit (and asked Martin lots of questions).
Ceviche, broadly speaking, is raw fish or seafood marinated briefly in citrus juice, with additions of chilli, onion and so on. It’s delicious, healthy and perhaps less austere than sashimi (probably the nearest thing we’ve tried). Pisco is South American brandy, put simply, and the pisco sour is Peru’s national tipple. The ones they do here are awesome. We recommend one as a sharpener, two for a giddy good time, and three for the kind of hangover you swore you’d never have again.
The dining room is wider than you think it’s going to be, airy and colourful, with a crucial skylight, a ceiling fan, and bright, cheerful posters; the kitsch continues in the girls’ loo, with its Peruvian sitcom soundtrack.
So, what to order? We’d say come a few times and try everything. The Don Ceviche is the house ceviche and it’s an absolute cracker, clean-tasting, with a nice kick, and served in a nice big portion. Sakura Maru is a salmon tiradito, cut slightly differently from the ceviches, and with mirin and soy in the ‘tiger’s milk’ or marinade. The beef heart skewers are a must, and fried beef saltado is a classic.
The menu suggests four savoury dishes per person, which means the bill can add up swiftly; provided you include something a bit heavier, like the arroz con pato (confit duck with dark beer rice) you can get away with less. And remember, no more than two of those magic pisco sours – especially at lunchtime on a Monday.