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A little bit of Peru in London – Coya Mayfair:
South American food has been a fashionable favourite in London recently. And Coya, opened last November in Mayfair, capitalises on the trend with poise and elegance. As you walk through the heavy front door on Piccadilly, you are greeted by a spectacular chandelier lighting your way down the stairs to the bar and restaurant, a fitting precedent to what should be a fabulous experience. The theatre of dining, Peruvian style.
There are several distinct areas, so that the large space doesn’t feel cavernous and the vivid colours of the upholstery contrasts with dark wood and terracotta tiled floors to create an almost intimate atmosphere. Peruvian inspired but refined and polished with Arjun Waney flair.
Of course the first drink you should order is a Pisco Sour, a cocktail created in the 1920s which uses a mixture of Peruvian Pisco (a grape based distilled alcohol), egg white, bitters, sugar syrup and lime to create a frothy drink with a real kick. We started with classic Pisco sours, intending to drink wine with the meal, but in the end we were tempted back to try flavoured Pisco sours.
Guided through the menu, we were encouraged to order a selection of one each of the small dishes.
We shared a ‘Lubina Clasico’ Ceviche– Sea Bass, red onions, sweet potato and white corn. Elegantly presented this was a delicate take on Ceviche but with a real kick in the tiger’s milk dressing!
Tiraditos are similar to ceviche – a dish originating from Peru’s Japanese immigrant population, again based on citrus marinated raw fish, but generally with no onion and perhaps with more chili. Our Conchas de Abanico was a mix of scallops, carrots, ginger, coriander and cress . Pretty as a picture, served on a stunning shell type plate, it tasted every bit as good as it looks.
Calmares Fritos con Ocopa was a dish of baby squid served with a green sauce made from ‘Peruvian marigold’ (also called Huacatay) to create a fresh lemony minty dipping sauce. Executive chef Sanay Dwivedi told us later that the Peruvian Marigold was grown especially for him to order.
The one dish I had hesitated over, Forest mushrooms with aji mirasol and parsley, turned out to be fantastically deep and rich. Sometimes sharing dishes are hard to share!
My dining companion, the pescatorian Hedonist, wanted to try a Josper dish for his main course and chose the Tiger prawns, with chilli salsa. A small taste for me, the fish was perfectly cooked and tender.
My Sirloin with chimichurri and tamarind salsa was a classic dish, immaculate and delicious. I know in my heart I should really order something other than steak, but when there’s a Josper, the result is usually amazing.
To accompany our main dishes we picked a dish of Peruvian asparagus and patatas bravas a la peruana.
After a short break, we found ourselves drawn to the dessert menu. It really was something of an indulgence but one that I don’t regret. My fortunato fondant with roasted white chocolate ice cream was a fine example of what I shouldn’t have been eating. Decadent fondant filling pouring from the light textured chocolate sponge – it was washed down with a wonderful sweet red wine which matched the chocolate perfectly, Maury Mas Mudigliza Roussilon, 2009. Very delicious and the best chocolate pairing I’ve had to date.
My companion’s lucuma bavarois with passion fruit sorbet must have been considerably healthier. Lucuma is a Peruvian fruit that looks a little bit like an orange fleshed avocado and is used in a dried form as a natural sugar substitute. Here though it was whipped up into a light mousse and the little I tasted was delicious.
A short tour of the three kitchen areas and private dining room confirmed that this is a serious investment in the London restaurant scene. The gleaming Josper was the latest model, with a separate indirect heat top oven used for smoking vegetables at Coya. And there was an open Asado as well. The private dining room just made me smile with its Latin American decor and stylish table.
We dined as guests of the restaurant during a quiet lunch time service. And, everything was faultless, except perhaps the stylish but dis-functional teapot which seemed to want to pour more of my companion’s mint tea onto the table than into the cup. We were told the place is considerably more lively in the evenings and I can imagine it’s somewhere you might visit to enjoy a cocktail or two and end up staying to eat. Whether the service and food is as spotless during a busy period is impossible to say from this review, but our own experience of Coya Mayfair was excellent.
London W1J 8NW