Newcomer of the Year 2013 - Lima, London

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Lima

While many leading British chefs are setting up shop in Dubai, Las Vegas, and other lucrative outposts, foreign chefs are flocking to London. I think we get the best of the exchange, ignoring some misfires like Ametsa with Arzak Instruction, some new, weird Asian- fusion upstarts, and the continuing lack of real regional Mexican cuisine.

The most impressive recent new wave has come from South America, and the best of them is Lima, in Fitzrovia. Led by one of Peru’s most celebrated young chefs, Virgilio Martinez, it’s imaginative, precise and sophisticated cooking, often with new and unusual ingredients and techniques, but never tortured into a chef’s vanity fare. The restaurant is handsome, casual but comfortable; one wall of a downstairs room is lined with Peruvian cookbooks, reinforcing the point that there is solid tradition behind it.

The food is strikingly attractive andboldly colourful: raw scallops on a bed of yellow pepper sauce and dusted with umami salt and cassava powder was rivalled by red-brown scallops (braised, then grilled) on a ridge of grains of white quinoa and ground corn spiked with red shiso and surrounded by purple blobs of Peruvian olive.

More importantly, the flavours were defined and ravishing. Suckling pig, essentially roasted belly pork crowned with cashews, was the best pig I’ve ever had, bar none, and a ‘hot ceviche’ of red mullet, slightly cooked by having a lime-pepper sauce poured over a fillet, was brilliant; as with the cool ceviche, its acidity was nicely balanced.

The wine list, with a good range of two dozen by the glass, is international and intriguing, and the South American selections are first-rate, especially Carelli’s 34° Torrontés from Argentina, an array of Chileans, and a chocolate- and sweet cherry-laden Tannat from Vinedo de los Vientos in Uruguay – a lovely dessert in itself.

Lima, 31 Rathbone Place, London W1T 1JH; tel: +44 (0)20 3002 2640; www.limalondon.com.
Open for lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday.


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