Continuing my quest to try all of the hottest Peruvian restaurants in London, Pachamama was next on my list. And in the spirit of planning ahead for London restaurants, I had booked a table in December for a February dinner with Claire & Matt and Angel & Gabi. In our more than a month waiting for the dinner, I kept staring at all the pictures people posted on Instagram and drooling in excited anticipation. If menu stalking were a crime, I’d be serving a life sentence in jail.
The good thing about going out in a group of six people who eat everything is that we can order a lot and try a ton of different things. Six of us versus a menu of 24 tapas dishes seemed a relatively fair fight. Each of us picked a few we really wanted to try and we ended up with 16 different dishes (not counting repeats such as the octopus… obviously) plus one snack and, of course, desserts.
Pachamama is absolutely adorable. The restaurant is downstairs with a relaxed but charming vibe and on this Saturday night it had a very good looking and fun crowd. In terms of vibe, I’d rank London’s Peruvian hot spots as follows:
- Lima Floral www.samstewartetc.com/lima-floral/
- Coya (too big for my taste, but still fun) www.samstewartetc.com/coya-london-review/
- Lima – the original with an OK setting, but delicious food (yum, that beef is dreamy). I think I was at Lima before I started the blog…
- Andina, cute upstairs and boring downstairs www.samstewartetc.com/andina-shoreditch/
- Senor Ceviche (casual and easy, good for a week-night meal) www.samstewartetc.com/senor-ceviche/
We started with cocktails and the boys ordered one each plus a round of Tiger’s Backs – one shot of Macchu Pisco (not a typo….but the brand of Pisco) and one shot of Tiger’s Milk (lime juice, chilies, and fish liquid from curing ceviche–a good palate cleanser, chaser, and, purportedly, hangover cure). I am not sure it works as a hangover preventative when you start dinner with several rounds of Tiger’s back(s)……
I went for the Aji Gimlet with gin, aji pepper, lime sherbet and Orinoco bitters, as our waiter said it was the spiciest option. It was OK, but not as good as the spicy margaritas at Shoreditch House.
What we ate:
Chicharonnes, sweet onions: small nibbles are OK, but not as tasty as the chicharrones at Andina (but that was one of the few awesome things at Andina–Pachamama is way better on the whole).
We started with Ceviches and Tiraditos after the Chicharrones. Here is our order and how they rated:
Chilled prawns, English mustard, tiger’s milk: prawns were delicious and the marinade was creamy and unique. Also more unusual with the prawns and the creamy marinade versus the usual cubed fish in a citrus marinade.
Yellowtail tuna, soy, pickled potato: despite comment above on cubed fish, the tuna morsels were perfect! Little red bites of fresh tuna in a nice flavorful marinade.
Sea bream tiradito, crema de aji, coriander: lovely white sea bream slices in a mellow marinade (the coriander was not overpowering, which could have ruined it for me). Lately I’m finding thin sliced tiraditos appeal more to me than diced ceviche–shady fish has nowhere to hide then!
Cornish sea bass, samphire, tiger’s milk: bland and less interesting than the other ones. Skip!
Octopus anticuchos, black garlic, aji : we had high hopes for these Octopus skewers and ordered two–I am glad we did. The octopus was perfectly grilled and served on top of two different, very creamy and tasty sauces that worked well together. The black garlic was in the sauce and tasted more like subtle roasted garlic that stayed in the oven for a while. Yum.
Cornish crab, saffron dashi, purple potato: weakest dish of the evening. The crab was overpowering (first time I’ve ever said that) and the flavors just didn’t work together. Skip!
Crispy lamb belly, green miso: hubby had insisted on this one and it proved delicious. Not overly fatty and the green miso was unique and interesting.
‘Duck on Rice’ : probably my favorite of the “Land” dishes (menu has, Snacks, Land, Sea, Soil, and Sweets). The duck was tender and the rice underneath was quite flavorful.
Beef cheek ‘Lomo Saltado’: large dry cubes of beef that were the only Land dish that our famished table didn’t finish. Skip !!!!
Peruvian asparagus, saffron yolk, peanuts: one of my favourite of the “Soil” dishes. The vibrant green asparagus was perfectly cooked and the saffron yolk perfectly eggy, making it creamy and tasty.
Sweet plantain, Sussex feta, English malt: another successful veggie dish, as the sweetness of the plantains worked perfectly with the feta.
Tenderstem broccoli, aji, maize cancha: Boring! If you want a good broccoli dish, go to Gymkhana instead.
Quinoa, avocado, Granny Smith apple: quinoa dishes can often be bland and boring, but this one excels. The granny smith added a nice crunchy texture to balance the creaminess of the avocado and the grainy quinoa.
Fried aubergine, smoked yogurt, pecan: hmmmm, hard to choose between this and the asparagus as my top dish of the Soil selections. Once I would never have thought I could rank aubergine on top as I used to be a hater, but since the miso glazed one at Kurobuta I am a convert. And special thanks to my friend Miles for confessing to me that my blog usually has spelling mistakes (such as spelling Kurobuta wrong, again and again!)… he was afraid I would be offended and had never told me. Friends, PLLLLLLEEEEAAAAASEEEEE email me when you find errors; I am Brazilian and sometimes too lazy to re-read so your input helps me a ton and makes me look less stupid.
Grilled mushrooms, sweet miso, aji: I am a mushroom addict, but this one didn’t work at all! The sweet miso had an odd texture and ruined the mushrooms. Sadness…
Torta de chocolate, toasted quinoa ice cream: despite being called a torta (a.k.a., tart) it was very un-torta like and more like a deconstructed interpretation turned upside down. The chocolate cream was at the bottom and the crunchy bits, like a crumble topping, sprinkled above. The quinoa ice cream was well positioned in the center. It was interesting and the chocolate was rich and delicious. But I think I still prefer more traditional desserts.
Almond milk panna cotta, passion fruit: the table was split on this one. I am not a panna cotta girl and this one didn’t win me over, bland in my book, though some others around the table liked it.
Aji truffles: supposed to have a kick from the Aji, but they seemed just straightforward chocolate truffles.
My favorite dessert was my liquid one…. Dulce de Chasca cocktail with dulce de leche, Plantation 3 rum, pisco, vanilla syrup, chocolate bitters. A vanilla caramel kiss before parting–not overly sweet and leaves you wanting to return.
The boys, of course, had another go at the Tiger’s backs.
Bonus: I had asked the hostess as we sat down about the typically London 2-hour table limit. I so appreciate that they hold 2.5 hours on busy nights for tables of two, but don’t typically limit tables of four or more. Thanks Pachamama–in that case, one more round!
In sum: adorable, fun place with a great vibe. When your table orders almost the entire menu, it’s hard not to find some weaker dishes, but, overall, very good. When we return, we’ll be very targeted and head straight to the dishes we loved this time.
Pachamama London http://pachamamalondon.com/ 18 Thayer Street W1U 3JY
+44 (0)20 7935 9393