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Take a trip to the jungle…Visit Zuaya in Kensington!
Compared to a few years ago London now has an exciting diversity of restaurants focused on the food culture of Latin America. Peruvian, Mexican, Argentinian and Brazilian cuisines with a dash of Japanese emigré ‘Nikkei’ influence are all well represented in the capital’s food scene and as such the focus moves from a search for novelty to quality. Zuaya Latin American Restaurant aims to do just that, with the quality offering that today’s diners expect. Recently opened in July Zuaya is one of the latest contemporary Latin American restaurants to launch. Set just back from Kensington High St in a little side street (opposite T K Maxx if like me you can’t find it!). I’m really excited to see how Chef Francisco Lafee will fuse together these Latin food cultures and I’m hoping for something that looks as exciting as it tastes. The interior reflects the lushness of the Amazon with a verdant green canopy of vegetation on the ground floor ceiling. There is chilled house music adding to the atmosphere with DJs coming in on Thursdays to Saturdays evenings playing into the early hours. The basement area is known as The Jungle and is full of discrete corners where you can be curtained off for privacy. There is a great looking cocktail menu so it would be churlish not investigate it. Drinks are served at the bar by our delightful barman, in chilled glasses rather than with ice, which I really like. We try the Chicano, a light, elegant and not too sweet blend of dried fig marmalade, Pisco, lychee, lime and limoncello; and the Ladybird – mixing together rhubarb and ginger jam, tequila, rhubarb liqueur, lime and ginger. It is complex and delicious with a mild finish of ginger coming through at the end. Whilst scanning the menu we nibble on pao de queijo topped with guava jam. This deep-fried Brazilian bread with melted cheese inside was a lovely way to soak up the alcohol! It was also a nice touch to have post-cocktail hot towels so that we felt fresh for the meal.
Starters at Zuaya are divided into ceviches, tiraditos and tartars, salads and tacos. We opt for the Zuaya Signature – three plates of food for two to share beautifully served on a tower. Ceviche Zuaya brings together fresh stone bass, blueberry, raspberry, orange, pink grapefruit and tiger milk to create a super-fresh tasting combo with a light chilli heat contrasting with the coolness of the chunks of fish and the citric sweetness of the fruit.Ceviche a la Brasa continues the same theme with warmed fresh sea bream in a delicious counterpoint to a sweet potato ice-cream with red onion, Peruvian corn and Rocoto tiger milk fleshing out the harmony. Super thin slices of mango are served tiradito style with red onion, tiger milk and chilli. The sweetness of the mango is offset by the heat of the chilli and zing of the onion to create a vibrant plate of food. Post-cocktails, we drink De Wetshof Bon Vallon Chardonnay 2017. It is robust enough to stand up to the chilli element of the meal and has a great balance of citrus acidity and melon notes. Mains dishes are either come from the Robata grill or come as stews and are as spectacular as the starters. We opt for a tender octopus tentacle with big boy flavours cooked under the grill and served with potato cream, yellow aji, chimichurri and garlic. Amazonic Madagascan tiger prawns are huge and meaty with a grilled smokeyness. They come with a crisp sweet potato panko, a passion fruit jam and yellow aji. I love a meal where the side dishes aren’t just bit players in the drama. Crisp yet fluffy cassava chips are paired with a Huancaina cheese dipping sauce. A Pepian of sweet corn and black quinoa is surprisingly warm, delicate and infused with the corn flavour. But my favourite is a herby, moist polenta Tamal. A magnificent exotic fruit platter is the grand finale and astonishingly we manage to polish it off…nearly. Because the food at Zuaya isn’t at all heavy it’s possible to sample a wide range of dishes without feeling overloaded.
I love the intimacy of Zuaya Latin American Restaurant while the restaurant’s scale allows the kitchen and charming front of house team to deliver at a really high level. If you’re already a fan or want to explore Latin American cuisine in glamorous Kensington then it’s a great bet.
35 Kensington High St,
London W8 5BA