Peruvian – Japanese Fusion Cuisine at Ayllu, Paddington.
Gentle reader, do you wonder where restaurants get their names? It’s a source of fascination for me. From the quirky (Hankies is an Indian restaurant named after the thin handkerchief type bread that they serve) to the obvious (Burger and Lobster anyone?). Ayllu is so-called after a traditional form of community that dates back to before the Inca conquest and still exists today across the Andes. With defined territories, the purpose of these extended families was originally to help ensure everyone got food in a part of the World where that really wasn’t a given. Ayllu the restaurant is in Paddington Basin alongside the canal. It opened just before lockdown and obviously closed pretty quickly. Right now it’s easing back – sharing indoor and outdoor space with its upstairs neighbour Smith’s Bar and Grill.
That’s a bonus in my eyes. If you want to go out and try something new but your friends are craving a burger and chip or a steak, you can do just that at Ayllu and Smith’s. While you feast on Guacamole, Tiraditos and Ceviche, anyone who has a less adventurous palate will not be disappointed. As food explorers though, we went along to try the best that Ayllu had to offer and left the restaurant manager to pick for us, with just one request from my friend for chicken as her main course.
From 5.30 to 7.30 the restaurant offers 2 for 1 cocktails so we determined to check out the margaritas (£10 during happy hour). While it shouldn’t be that easy to make a bad margarita, I’ve had my share in the past. Not this time, these were perfectly balanced, not too sweet and with a good kick from the tequila. The outside terrace is a lovely place to sit too – watching the canal boats slowly meandering through the water. Buzzing with evening drinkers this place didn’t feel so far from normal pre-COVID life.
While we drank our cocktails a bowl of guacamole was mixed at our table. Served with corn tortillas it made a fresh and light alternative to nibble on while we sipped.
Sharing plats arrived; a plate of lightly smoked butterfish with a cauliflower puree, quinoa, bacon and leek was flavoursome and easy to eat.
Yellowtail tiradito had quite a punch and was zingy with citrus flavours.
The star act though was this 9 piece sashimi set (moriawase) which includes salmon, yellowtail and tuna, beautifully presented, fresh and moreish. We had main courses to come though, so this was really more than we needed!
My companion’s Pollito Picante was a generous portion of marinated baby chicken served with grilled vegetables and coriander aioli. A lovely char on the skin of the chicken revealed tender and succulent meat. It certainly hit the spot and the plate was cleaned but for a few scattered bones!
Cazuela Sabor a Mar was a hotpot style dish of char-grilled salmon served with seaweed and rice made with seaweed stock. I found the rice a little salty but a reasonable balance for the salmon. A little less rice with a few vegetables would have improved the dish for me.
My dessert of baked chocolate Mala with kiwicha pop and vanilla ice cream was a rich chocolate fondant that melted in the mouth. Not too sweet and with rich, bitter dark chocolate it was my idea of dessert heaven.
Gentle reader, we are not greedy! My companion asked for the alfajores with dulce de leche (that should have been 3 shortbread type biscuits!). Instead, we got the dessert for two – a rather grand plateful of glazed lucuma and passionfruit mousse with a chocolate tuile and pecan strussel. It was light and fragrant, my not-greedy-at-all companion did manage most of a dessert for two!
We like Ayllu as it is, with an al-fresco terrace, but we have already seen the space downstairs, with cosy booths and an open kitchen area. If you enjoy restaurants like Lima and Coya, you’ll love the menu at Ayllu – and you’ll enjoy a relaxed evening there.
Located beneath Smith’s Bar & Grill,
25 Sheldon Square,
London W2 6EY