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Pachamama London – love at first bite, rather than sight

A lot of new food delivery services seem to have sprouted around London recently – my twitter timeline is full of alluring offers from startups claiming to be able to deliver in under an hour from proper (means=expensive) restaurants, for a hefty fee, like any other concierge- style service. Now, why am I talking about this in a post about a new restaurant? Well, because those offers came back to my mind when I left Pachamama – now, if anybody delivered that food to my place for a reasonable fee, that would be a great idea. Because, to cut a long story short, I absolutely loved the food and drinks, enjoyed perfect service and had a good night, but didn’t immediately fell in love with the place because of the decor. Not that I had much time to notice it until I was done devouring plate after plate of tasty, refined and gorgeous-looking food – but still. It’s like one of those dates here looks can be deceiving – behind those not so right clothes, there’s a lot to like, so better get to the..erm, point.

pachamama peruvian london

Photo credits: Giulia Mule’

 

Let’s start from the important bits – the “background checks”. Pachamama opened last October and has received a few accolades already for its food – “dishes that reflect the spectrum of influences in Peruvian cuisine using the finest seasonal British produce”. Chef Adam Rawson has a very respectable CV with stints at both high end Viajante and quick and dirty Lucky Chip, and the prestigious W1 location also counts for something. London has been introduced to Peruvian food by a series of excellent venues (one above all – Lima) so my expectations were high about this new take on it. And indeed, Pachamama’s food is now at the top of my personal Peruvian list, only waiting for a revisit. When it comes to “exotic” food, I am always more interested in taste than authenticity or orthodox provenance of ingredients, and in this sense Pachamama delivers some quite outstanding food, no matter the label.

The menu is divided into “Sea, Land and Soil”, with a very welcome focus on vegetables, put on an equal foot to meat and fish. The drinks list is dizzying in a good way, with a lot of weird and wonderful cocktail concoctions with a twist on the traditional Pisco. Our upbeat and knowledgeable waiter did help us chose based on me and my friend’s tastes, and I ended up LOVING my Rosa de la Inca- a pisco infused with pink peppercorns and Volcano coffee beans, vermouth, Campari and orange bitters. Basically, a Negroni with coffee – with two of my favourite things in the world, how can you go wrong? The sweet-toothed booze lover also has plenty of choice and Giulia liked her sweet-sour Mama’s Pisco.

pachamama review

Photo credits: Giulia Mule’

 

Sometimes I feel that “small plates” and the sharing concept don’t really go hand-in hand, despite their current pairing in most new London restaurants (who wants to fight over tapas-sized portions?). But all the plates we got were perfectly sized for two people sharing; in fact, with such intense flavours, I found that a couple bites from each plate are really the best way to sample more and not to get overwhelmed by a single note. Starters were all excellent, from the classic ceviches of tuna belly and sea bream, the latter fresh from Cornwall and accompanied by samphire – a triumph of sea flavours- to the beef tartare with peppers. A daily special of grilled scallops really impressed us with its balance of crispy, salty, sweet and soft. The “chicharrones” (morsels of crispy pork belly) were almost predictably good, and so was the hearty Lomo – meltingly tender beef cheek with tasty vegetables in a earthenware pot.

pachamama review 5

Photo credits: Giulia Mule’

 

But the true revelation – and a real showcase of the quality of produce and the cooking – were the vegetables dishes. Charred asparagus, coming out of the Jasper oven with a light, delicious homemade mayo, were as good as any steak.; the aubergines were so moreish I almost forgot to eat the dip of smoked yoghurt and pecan nuts (joking, of course I ate it). I could happily eat a very non-small and non-sharing plate of aubergines and asparagus at Pachamama, and be a happy diner – an opinion shared by my fellow diner, and this has nothing to do with January good resolutions.

There was more to come in the form of desserts and “dessert cocktails” – my highlight was a silky and intense pannacotta with a passionfruit coulis, and of course the signature Peruvian take on espresso martini, the cutely named “Pichu Pichu”. I am not the best judge of desserts, but Giulia certainly is, and the Torta de Chocolate with quinoa icecream and the Aji Truffles were also duly appreciated.

pachamama desserts

Torta de Chocolate and QUinoa Ice Cream; Pichu Pichu dessert cocktail; Almond Pannacotta with Passion Fruit Coulis. Photo credits: Giulia Mule’

 

So, definitely thumbs up all over for the food – fresh, light, zingy and beautiful to look at, but at the same time grounded and satisfying. It is reasonably priced (most plates around the £10 mark, cocktails from £7.5) and you can have a real feast at a fraction of the damage you’d get elsewhere for this quality of cooking. This is enough for me to come back but…as I said, the décor for me is best ignored if you can. Many may like it, I just couldn’t find a redeeming feature to it – apparently, it a pastiche of old Colonial house and folk Peruvian that reminded me of an unsuccessful attempt at a Dishoom style. The lighting is too dim to see the food, yet not dim enough to be “atmospheric”.

If you go – and you should- look at the prettiness in the plate, roll up your sleeves, dig in and try to not acknowledge the surroundings too much, except for the jovial staff. And I mean not to diss the effort that went into the decor, it feels designed, but not to my taste really. The fact that some of the diners looked like they just got lost on their way to the Chiltern Firehouse also did not help, but I guess that not everyone shares my dislike for extremely good looking, sparingly dressed young models. Anyone? No? Oh alright, at first glance it’s probably a touch too glam and exciting for an Eastender girl like me – but with a cocktail or two in hand, it’s going to be brilliant night.

I was a guest of Pachamama London for a tasting menu. All pictures courtesy of Giulia Mule’, photographer. 
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2 Comments

  1. Indeed, the food is very good with one or two less exceptional dishes (eg the plantain, the beef cheek). We really enjoyed it minus the decor (which actually I would not have noticed, as it’s quite muted) and the slightly loud noise from drinking parties. I can’t wait to go back, and remember my camera for photos of such pretty dishes

    • SO glad you liked it! Yes, the party can get quite noisy but it’s such a lively atmosphere :)

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