Lima was as empty as a Venezuelan supermarket when we arrived for brunch. Were it not for the melodic elevator music, you would have been able to hear head chef / owner Virgilio Martinez’s heart beating from actual Peru. Despite the lack of people, my Michy comrade and I were excited to see what the world’s fourth best chef had managed to export to the glossy streets of Fitzrovia.
We kicked off with some Peruvian fizzy ones, Cusquena. Having travelled together to South America, we know that a bottle costs circa 40 pence in a dive bar in Cusco. Nice to see Virgilio had marked them up by over 1,000% for his gullible London middle-class customers, with a single 330ml serving costing £5. It was 11am and so they fell down smoothly regardless.
The three course brunch menu commenced with a rather hearty amouse bouche; a shot of chicken soup akin to the dregs of a chicken curry Pot Noodle (a positive thing). Then came an array of starters: mixed ceviche, buttons of beef and sashimi-style Cobia doused in a Pollock-esque flick of brent crude and something yellow and something else orange. All three were glorious, although the ceviche was the star; a ‘mixto’ of textures built from the clever marriage of jus, chunks of aquatic life, nuts and vegetation.
Following the beer, we indulged in the frankly absurd weekend Prosecco offer of 4 glasses for £12. Things began to go south.
For mains we chose the braised lamb shoulder and chicken pachamanca. The latter was like a high octane Nandos – a hefty portion with an exquisite corn puree. The former was a venerable door-wedge of meat, served with ‘4,000m potatoes’, obviously a homage to Martinez’s altitude theme in his flagship restaurant, Central. Our inebriated selves were rather disappointed, however, that there were not 4,000 of them, as we thought we had read.
Alongside the mains arrived a trio of bizarre side dishes, the worst of which was a spinach and pomegranate salad laced with warm, melted cheese. I would not want to put it in my mouth again, to put it simply.
We also received some egg fried rice that may well have been misplaced by a Just Eat delivery driver. Despite being as culturally cohesive as a bull fight in a yurt, the stuff was a pleasing addition to our main courses.
Half-cut and full, dessert arrived. It was a sweet tooth’s wet dream. Dulce de leche, ‘Amazonian’ chocolate mousse and Lucuma ice cream. Thankfully the mousse was not as polluted as its namesake, rather it was an intense quenelle of cocoa paradise. We have respectively dreamt of it since. The Lucuma is a Peruvian sweet fruit neither of us had eaten before that apparently has a variety of positive health benefits. We were not feeling much better having eaten it, however, having drained our final glass of bubbles and awaiting a coffee laced with Pisco. We demolished the delightfully sweet hot finishers and settled the bill, both bleary eyed and as stuffed as sheds.
Verdict: great value if one avoids the lager; a tapestry of flavours and textures if you swerve the cheese salad; well-deserving of its single Michy if you ignore the funereal atmosphere.