Tuesday, 8 July 2014

London and Paris Foodie Adventure 2014: Day 3- Lima

31 Rathbone Pl, London W1T 1JH, United Kingdom
+44 20 3002 2640

Tastiness Factor: 9/10

Atmosphere: 4.5/5

Service: 4.5/5

Locavore approved? YES- While Lima certainly uses its fair share of unique Peruvian ingredients (which, by the way, he sources from independent farmers in Peru), he also sources many ingredients locally from around the British Isles.  This mix of familiar and foreign is among the many things that makes Lima a foodie haven. 

Lima made it onto our London foodie adventure list for a variety of reasons.  First of all, we felt the need to take a break from European food and mix things up with some Peruvian flavours.  Also, we were looking for a more low-key, informal vibe, and a mid-week “break” from tasting menus.  More importantly, we had the good fortune of meeting Chef Martinez and tasting his excellent food on a trip to Lummi Island last year (see here for more on Lummi's First Harvest Dinner at the Willows Inn) and were keen to see what he had to offer under his own roof.

To our great surprise, we ended up seeing Chef Martinez sitting right at the back of the restaurant near our table when we walked in at opening time (we were eating early as we were catching an evening musical).  He is apparently opening a new location in London and, after eating at Lima, we can understand why he has become successful. 

Lima is located in the very convenient and accessible Soho neighborhood, just steps from to the entertainment district, making it a great pre-theatre option.  The small storefront is quite unremarkable, but when you walk inside, you will be greeted by colorful yet tasteful Peruvian d├ęcor that made us feel as though we had been transported to Peru itself.  I really liked the comfortable, booth-style seating, made even more cozy by a selection of pillows with Latin American designs.

Service was very casual and friendly, while still being attentive.  I was particularly fond of one female server who was from Peru and who took the time to tell us all about the different little towns there.  She was also great about describing our dishes, and pointing out the traditional South American ingredients that we were unfamiliar with.  Our 2 courses plus coffee made it to our table in under one and a half hours, and gave us plenty of time to make it to our 7:30 theater show.

****The main menu is a la carte.  The starter courses include a variety of Peruvian dishes such as causas, tiraditos and ceviches.  Many were centered around raw or lightly cured fish, with some vegetarian and meat options.  In terms of main courses, there was about 6 each of "mar" (fish) and "tierra" (meat) mains, as well as one vegetarian option.  Additionally, there is a set menu available that is quite reasonably prices (20 pounds for 2 courses, 23 pounds for 3 courses), making it an attractive pre-theater option.  Because some of the dishes on the a la carte menu caught our eye, we decided to stick with that option.

Here is a sneak peek at our meal, with stars denoting our favourites (not that there were any bad dishes to speak of!):

***Bread served with yogurt- I am not usually a huge fan of bread before my meal, but there was something about Lima's bread that made that made me keep going back for more!  I just loved the texture (almost like a cornbread) and the unique pairing with yogurt instead of butter.

Beer- There is only one beer available at Lima, and (surprise, surprise), it is Peruvian.  Fortunately, Hubby was a fan!

***Wild sea bass causas- This is undoubtably on my shortlist of favorite dishes so far this year.  The little “cups” of mashed purple potato were filled with chopped avocado a piled high with lightly cured sea bass.  Accompanying this on the plate was a light drizzle of a vibrantly-colored sauce with flavours that I have never tasted before.  If I had known how amazing this would be, I likely would have ordered 3 or 4 of this same starter and called it a night!

Tuna Nikkei- Hubby, the tuna poke fanatic, just had to have this tuna ceviche.  This was of course quite different than poke, with its South American flavours and playful presentation.  Simple, but again, delicious.

Vegetable root warm ceviche- Since we were doing fish for our starters, I decided to check out the only vegetarian main after our server, who is vegetarian herself, raved about it.  I had a lot of fun trying to identify all of the different root vegetables.  Some were native to Peru and I had to ask our server to decipher them!  I must admit though that I was not as big of a fan of the sauce on this dish (I found it became a bit sickening towards the end) and would have liked some more quinoa for a bit more protein and sustenance.

***Suckling pig- Hubby ordered this on the recommendation of our server who said this was one of the most popular dishes on the menu.  And he was not at all disappointed, and he still calls it one of his favourite dishes of our trip.  The suckling pig was rich and succulent, and sat atop a bed of green rocoto and giant corn.  What an explosion of South American flavours!

Overall verdict?

Lima delivers food that is not only delicious, but also very unique, with many ingredients and flavors that we had never tasted, or even heard of, before.  Pair the food with a fun atmosphere, friendly service and reasonable prices, and you have a real winner of a restaurant.

Lima Floral, Martinez' new London restaurant in Covent Gardens, will definitely be on the agenda the next time we are in town!

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