Tag Archives: ceviche

STK, Westminster

I rarely crave meat, but when I do, only the best will suffice. I was having a ‘carnivore moment’ just as an invite to dinner at American steakhouse STK arrived in my inbox. My foodie fairy godmother was working her magic once again.

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The dinner had a name and that name was RED on RED. Three courses of red meat paired beautifully with glass after glass of glorious Penfolds – one of the best things to come out of Australia, along with Macadamia nuts, Tim Tams and Liam Hemsworth (I’m a bit of a Hunger Games fan).

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We sat in the private dining room, entertained by Head Chef Barry Vera, who enthusiastically introduced us to each dish as they arrived. For him, it was a real treat to experiment ‘off menu’. We also heard from the charming Penfolds Ambassador, who explained why the wine tasted so darn good, especially when savoured with a spoonfuls of the yummy food in front of us.

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The three meat courses were outstandingly good. Steak tartare was topped with a  pretty poached quails egg and caviar. It was drunk with a 2009 Pinot Noir that had notes of dried fruit, adding an extra layer to the delicate meat.

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Next was a gorgeous Japanese Wagyu Ceviche with poached pear puree and large slices of truffle. This was followed by the most substantial of our dishes – USDA sirloin with smoked bone marrow, crispy parsley and caramelised garlic.

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STK is the only place in London to use this cut of prime beef. Take it from me, this steak didn’t need chips, mac ‘n’ cheese or any other steakhouse side to beef it up. It was fantastic on its own.

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Before dessert, a plate of creamy Cornish Yarg, salt bread and cherries were served. It was Vera’s take on a Black Forest Gateaux and one I enjoyed very much (even if my stomach screamed ‘please Sarah, no more!’).

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But I didn’t listen to my stomach and instead ate Head Pastry Chef Sarah Barber’s fabulous Chocolates BFG and ‘Sweet Treats’, whilst sipping sweet Penfolds Grandfather Fortified wine. I was in heaven and nothing was going to take that away from me.

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Now I realise I was getting special treatment that night, so I’ll briefly tell you what STK is like outside the realms of our private room. It’s boisterous, fun and – from what I’ve heard – allows dancing on the tables if the mood takes you there.

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As for the food? Well Vera’s daily menu doesn’t disappoint. Even if you don’t feel like a heavy steak, you can take it from me that the fish dishes are delicious. Scallops were delicately cooked to perfection and Coconut Fried Halibut melted in the mouth.

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The Lobster Mac ‘n’ Cheese is also worth a try, as are the Wild Mushrooms with Truffle. But I will leave you with this – don’t take anyone hard of hearing. The music is LOUD, which is brilliant for a night out with friends, but inappropriate for dinner with the grandparents.

STK London Steakhouse, ME London, 336-337 The Strand London, WC2R 1HA 

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Andina, Shoreditch

The word Andina is typically used to describe a ‘woman in the Andes’, so perhaps Martin Morales intended his second ‘Peru in London’ restaurant for ‘ladies who lunch’ in Shoreditch. Or perhaps he didn’t give it that much thought.

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We (four ladies, one man) went to Andina on a beautiful December day. The restaurant’s long windows, white washed walls and light furniture meant we could bask in the sunshine, despite being indoors. It’s lucky we weren’t seated in the back room or – at worst – downstairs. Not that it would have mattered during the great storms of 2013.

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Just like Ceviche in Soho, the menu is filled with smaller ‘sharing’ plates and plenty of ceviche. Unlike its sister restaurant, it also boasts a number of larger main course dishes for those who secretly don’t like to share (i.e. me).

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We started with a number of dishes from the Street Food and Ceviches sections of the menu. The slightly dry Quinoa Croquettas (£4) weren’t a patch on the enormous Pig Butty (£6), which we greedily ended up getting two of.

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Inside the soft, white buns was a mountain of tender confit pork with sweet potato ketchup and salsa criolla. We even had little pots of pork on the side, just in case we didn’t have enough fatty, oh so tasty, meat.

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Of the ceviches, we had Sato (£7.5), Siwichi (£8) and Cheeky (£8.50), also known as trout, seabass, hake & cods cheek. A complete contrast to the heartier street food, it didn’t have the wow factor I’d experienced at Ceviche. Some seemed over limed and the fish wasn’t as delicately cut as I’d have liked.

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I chose Skewered Lamb Kebabs for main, which came with giant Peruvian Corn and salad. I enjoyed the tenderness of the meat and overall lightness of the meal, but couldn’t help adding a few dollops of delicious lucuma puree for extra pizazz (thanks to the plate of Lomo next to me (£20)).

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Lucuma is a native Peruvian fruit that makes the most wonderfully sweet, creamy sauce. Take my word for it, it’s a wonderful alternative to mayo or ketchup if you can get it.

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Desserts were shared and in plentiful supply. First we had a tray of Picarones (£9) – Pumpkin Doughnuts that were as light as air and even more delicious when dunked in purple corn syrup or chocolate fudge.

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The Quinoa Chocolate Brownie (£5) wasn’t my favourite. The quinoa had dried yet another dish, destroying any chance of a gooey middle and crisp, chewy top.

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Instead, the Mousse De Lucuma took me by surprise (£5). The yummy lucuma fruit had worked its magic once again, producing a sweet, creamy dessert that couldn’t have been more delicious.

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Andina was a mixed bag. Some dishes were a delight, others didn’t live up to the reputation of Ceviche. Then again, the atmosphere, price and ridiculously close location to my office is bound to draw me back. So for now, I’m giving it a LLE Rating of 6 / 10.

Andina, 1 Redchurch Street, Shoreditch, London E2 7DJ

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LIMA London

Best New Latin American Restaurant (Time Out Eating & Drinking Awards 2012),  One to Watch (National Restaurant Awards 2012) and Restaurant of the Week (London Evening Standard, 18th July 2012). Wow, Lima must be EXCELLENT.

It also crossed my mind that Lima must live up to the hype, as I made my booking for The Boyfriend’s birthday. But they’d have felt no pressure from us. That was saved for Giles Coren, sitting on the table opposite.

Two Pisco Sours kicked off the celebrations, accompanied by fresh bread, oil and red salt. “Red salt?” I asked Juan, our knowledgable waiter. “It’s from the Amazon” he replied. At that moment I knew our meal would be special. If, albeit, a little pretentious.

Pisco Sours became wine as red salt became starters – Sea Bream Ceviche for me and Braised Octopus al Olivo for The Boyfriend. The ceviche was made with white tiger’s milk. White tiger’s milk?! This was all getting too much, but it turns out Head Chef Virgilio Martinez doesn’t have a white ‘milking’ tiger in the garden. Instead, it comes from fish and is one of the essential ingredients that made my bream tangy, tender and ultimately, delicious.

Half way through the ceviche, The Boyfriend’s octopus caught my eye, so I went in for a bite. The succulent, lightly charred tentacles (shudder) made my stomach crave another forkful, much to The Boyfriend’s dismay.

For main, we went with Juan’s recommendation of Halibut with Andean Herbs and Confit of Suckling Pig. Polar opposites in taste and presentation, they were both wonderful. But, it was the halibut that won the main course trophy, mainly because of the Cancha Corn Parfait that lay alongside. It was like a delicate corn bread. Sweet and savoury, spongy and crisp, it was the perfect accompaniment to the fish, yet could have done the job on its own.

Our Peruvian adventure ended with Cacao Porcelana 75% with Mango & Hierbabuena Granita, topped with…wait for it…Blue Potato Crystal. I was impressed that without asking, Juan had arranged for Happy Birthday to be spelt out in granita on our plate. I was also impressed that Juan hadn’t sung happy birthday as the pretty chocolate dessert made its way to our table. No offence Juan.

I loved this restaurant and, if it wasn’t for the slightly scary prices (our meal with drinks came to just under £120 with tip), I’d go back in a heartbeat. Lima, you can now add one more accolade to add to the list – a LLE Rating of 8.5 / 10. You never know, that might actually mean something one day.

Lima, 31 Rathbone Place, Fitzrovia, London, W1T 1JH

Caravan, Kings Cross

Being lost will put a strain on any relationship. When The Boyfriend and I couldn’t find our way round the port in Athens, I complained, he got flustered and bam. We had our first proper argument on the first day of our first holiday. Not ideal.

A few years later and I sensed similar tension when we tried to find Caravan on Saturday night. The restaurant is built in an old grain store across a bridge that’s so new, it doesn’t show up on Google maps. In fairness to Caravan, there are very clear directions on its website, so it’s a shame we didn’t look at them.

Twenty minutes late, we received a friendly welcome at the front desk as if we were bang on time. After a quick and very reasonably priced cocktail at the bar, we went to our table in the middle of a magnificent dining room that felt very cool, without being pretentious.

The menu takes influence from around the globe. There are Italian sourdough pizzas, an Israeli couscous dish, a British lamb chop and very American grits. Fortunately, Caravan gets away with this ambitious array of food and everything we ate was ‘lick the bowl clean’ delicious.

Three of us ordered from the small plates section, two others went for pizza and The Boyfriend’s Atkins style diet demanded Wagyu striploin with horseradish, parsnips and chard from the land of the large plates.

Us small platers went to town with our order. Here’s the list: Chorizo & Butternut Squash Croquettes; New Potato Salad with Duck Egg & Samphire; Goat’s Curd with Nectarine, Braised Onion, Pine Nuts & Cress; Scallop Ceviche; Ox Tongue with Mustard, Honey & Beetroot; Grilled Quail with Chickpea Puree, Sumac & Charred Lemon; Jalapeno Corn Bread with Chilli Butter; Summerhimu Blue Cheese with Figs, Vinacotta & Truffle Oil.

We didn’t hold back, but it felt like the right amount for three people. Highlights for me were the rich croquettes, the crisp corn bread and the citrussy, sharp ceviche, but I’m pleased to say I couldn’t pick holes in any of it.

Our meal was finished off with three desserts to share – a Caramel Pot with Salted Shortbread, Treacle Tart and Affogato al Caffe. Pudding wasn’t as good as main, but after so much rich food, I think my taste buds would have found it hard to pick out any flavours.

I loved Caravan, so am happy to give it a LLE Rating of 8.5 / 10. Between six of us, we got through a mountain of food and booze, so I was pleasantly surprised that the bill only came to £50 pp. Especially when I consider M’s penchant for Expresso Martinis…

Caravan, Granary Building, 1 Granary Square, London N1C 4AA

Ceviche, Frith Street, Soho

It’s hard to ignore the ‘small plate’ revolution going on in London restaurants. Some, like me, love the chance to try as much as possible, whereas others, like my friend L, want to know what they own when their order arrives. That’s not to say L shares the view of my new favourite singer JJ Grey, who sings the warning ‘Stick ya hands near my plate, you’ll draw back a nub’  in Ho Cake, it’s just she’s one of many people whose heart melts slightly when they see the words ‘these plates are made for sharing’ written on a menu.

If you too hold this view, please don’t be put off by new Peruvian Kitchen and Pisco Bar Ceviche. Yes, the dishes are small and shareable, but it’s refreshing to enjoy ‘tapas style’ food that isn’t Italian or Spanish. In fact, it’s refreshing to enjoy Peruvian food full stop, as its not easy to come by in London.

I went to Ceviche with high expectations last Thursday to meet M for lunch. We both agreed it’d be rude not to try a Pisco Sour, so quickly ordered two as we worked our way through the hefty menu. As neither of us are experts on Peruvian cuisine, or knew what to expect from the exotic ingredients, we let our friendly waiter order what he considered to be the best plates.

First up was Cancha – crunchy Peruvian corn that went perfectly with our delicious drinks. Even though it looks a bit like a bowl of roasted bugs (something The Boyfriend pointed out earlier), they were utterly moreish and went at lightning speed.

Next came two dishes from the ceviche bar – Don Ceviche, which is fresh sea bass in an ají amarillo chilli tiger’s milk, covered in ají limo chilli and red onions…

…and Sakura Maru, also known as thinly sliced salmon in Nikkei tiger’s milk made with satsumas, mirin, soy sauce and ají limo chilli.

I know I haven’t got to the other dishes yet, but the ceviche really did steal the show, as both had a perfect balance of sweet and sour, with delicate strips of fish that melted in the mouth.

The ceviche was followed by Corazón – beef heart marinated in ají panca chilli anticucho sauce, served with choclo corn (gigantic corn) and ají amarillo chilli sauce…

…and Arroz con Pato, which is an easier to understand confit duck in coriander and dark beer rice.

The Corazón presented itself as skewers of juicy, tender meat, brought to life by the spicy sauce – far more aesthetically pleasing than the entire cow’s heart I’d imagined. I’d also expected the Arroz con Pato to be dry, but instead the meat was moist and the rice had a warm risotto like consistency.

To make sure we got our five-a-day, we also ordered  Asparagus with Huancaína Sauce. Much like the genetically modified choclo corn, the asparagus was enormous so we only managed to get through a couple of sticks, smothering each  in the cheesy chilli sauce.

We finished with Peruvian Corn Cake, which was unlike anything I’d tasted before. Made with favourite ingredient choclo corn, the cake was sprinkled with cooked feta, had the consistency of a slightly under baked sponge and almost seemed to have a floral aftertaste. It wasn’t unpleasant and, being new to Peruvian cooking, I’m not in a position to critique it, but I expect I’m not the only one who would question whether I’d order it again.

Ceviche gets a LLE Rating of 8.5/10. I’d love to go back in the evening when it’s really buzzing. It may not be the cheapest restaurant in town, but considering the variety of great food we had, £65 including tip sure ain’t bad.

Ceviche, 17 Frith Street, Soho, London W1D 4RD