George Wales fell for the pisco sours and Peruvian scotch egg at Ceviche Old Street.
When Martin Morales’ Ceviche Soho first threw its doors open back in 2013, Peruvian food was a relatively unknown quantity in the capital, even amongst its most food-savvy denizens.
Now, with the likes of Lima, Pachamama, Senor Ceviche, Coya and Morales’ own Andina all up and running, even those without a finger on the pulse know their pisco from their pulpo. So how does the second branch of Ceviche measure up to both its older brother and the new wave of Peruvian pretenders? Very nicely indeed, as it turns out.
The first thing to note about this new Old Street site, is that it is significantly more spacious than its Soho predecessor. Dark Peruvian wood paneling and tiled walls are reminiscent of the kind of gastro bars that line the streets of Lima, while the centerpiece of the room is a glowing robata gril, where street-food skewers spit and sizzle temptingly. If a touch grander than the Soho branch, it’s pleasingly just as buzzy.
Food-wise, the dishes from which the restaurant takes its name are as reliable as ever. Don Ceviche remains a signature, pairing delicate seabass with sweet potato, red onions and a fiery combination of Amarillo chilli tiger’s milk and limo chilli. We also enjoyed the Tiradito Chifa – tuna sliced wafer thin and served with pickled daikon, roquito pepper, tiger’s milk and vermicelli, in a symphony of piquant flavours.
The grilled dishes feature some authentic Peruvian delicacies – shelve your squeamishness and try the Corazón de la Tía – panca-marinated beef heart skewers served with rocoto chilli sauce and grilled potatoes. Less adventurous but just as delicious is the Fiestita de Bavette – Bavette steak cooked rare and topped with a Burford Brown, served alongside a fantastic salsa with plantain, cannellini beans and cured pork. Meanwhile, special mention should also go to the Huevo Criollo. Essentially a Peruvian Scotch egg, it comprises a Burford Brown encased in smoky sangrecita sausage and breadcrumbs, deep-fried and served with rocoto sauce. An absolute gem, it looks likely to become one of 2015’s most-Instagrammed dishes.
Needless to say, you’d be a fool to visit either branch of Ceviche without knocking back a Pisco Sour or three, although a new range of bottled cocktails are also worth exploring, particularly the Pisco Punch, which mingles the spirit with vermouth and pineapple syrup like an upscale, grown-up Lilt. Worryingly drinkable, we’d happily go back for an evening of these at the bar, with maybe a couple of skewers to keep the wolf from the door. And perhaps one Huevo Criollo on the side. And a Fiestita de Bavette? Well, if you insist.
Ceviche Old St, 2 Baldwin Street London EC1V 9NU
Words George Wales, a freelance writer specialising in food and film. He tweets at @georgewales85