With its wood-panelled walls, mosaic tiled floor and homely touches, Pachamama in Marylebone has the feel of a Spanish colonial villa in the poshest suburbs of Lima; while across town, the more relaxed Señor Ceviche has become the latest go-to destination in foodie-hub Kingly Court. These restaurants are just the latest of a number of high-profile Peruvian openings in recent years.
So, what's with this sudden clamour for Peruvian food? For years, Londoners had a limited choice of purveyors of cuisine from the home of pisco (although Chileans may beg to differ), the Incas and, of course, Paddington Bear. But just like Hiram Bingham's first stumble over an overgrown mound of rocks that's now known as Machu Picchu, there has been an equally significant foodie revelation in the capital as restaurant after restaurant has opened.
While Tito's in London Bridge has been ploughing as lonely a furrow as a subsistence farmer in the Colca Canyon since 2003, the popularity of Peruvian fare has increased at a pace to match the rise and rise of its near neighbour, The Shard.
Over the past few years, eateries have been popping up in trendy areas, as Londoners have been quick to understand that tiger's milk isn't exactly what it says on the tin and quinoa isn't the latest South American footballing talent.
Ceviche, Martin Morales' lively venue amongst Soho's buzzing restaurants helped open the floodgates. With small plates and a thriving bar serving oh so moreish pisco sours, it was soon clear there was an appetite given the queues outside the door that rivalled those of uber-trendy udon eatery Koya directly opposite – not to be confused with upmarket Peruvian outpost Coya, which opened a few months later on Piccadilly.
Soon, Lima had also arrived in London, and Peruvian cuisine truly made its mark. Within months a Michelin star was awarded and with it came the exposure to nurture a younger sibling in Covent Garden earlier this year. The more low-key Lima Floral has quickly gained a reputation for its piqueos (small plates) using ingredients sourced from its homeland.
The East has not been immune to this Peruvian invasion, as Andina (another Martin Morales creation) popped up in Shoreditch with an all-day offering late last year.
And there are more. From Islington to Walworth, lomo saltado is being gobbled with gusto – it's almost enough to make you wonder whether Andean language, Quechuan, will become as commonplace as Turkish or Polish on London's streets.
But why has Peruvian food ‘arrived' all of a sudden? London's dynamic food scene means it was only a matter of time before Peruvian cuisine became on-trend. But there's more to it than that. Why, for example, has Peruvian made greater waves than other South American cuisines in recent years? Granted, Argentinean steak places are numerous and Brazilian rodizios are present in many neighbourhoods, but do any of these have a Michelin star? And how many have the bustling vibe generated by the restaurant bars whose mixologists are kept on their toes making hundreds of pisco sours each night?
Peruvian food by nature uses the freshest ingredients – its signature dish ceviche dictates this. But it also spreads to its spirits – when asked if all their piscos are from Peru (they also make it in Chile), a Pachamama barman replied: “of course, we only use the best." He wasn't boasting, just explaining how it is. In this age when sustainable and traceable food is paramount, the cuisine fits perfectly.
The ethos also matches another current trend: that of sharing. Ceviches, salads and grills lend themselves to sharing, and with the cuisine still intriguing and new to many, it's an ideal way to try the many flavours and unusual ingredients on the menu.
So, Peruvian food seems here to stay, and who are we to stop it expanding like the once fruitful Inca Empire – particularly if the pisco sours keep flowing.
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