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  • Restaurants
  • Paddington
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  1. Photograph: Allyu
    Photograph: Allyu
  2. Photograph: Allyu
    Photograph: Allyu
  3. Photograph: Allyu
    Photograph: Allyu
  4. Photograph: Allyu
    Photograph: Allyu

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Tucked below a generic bar and restaurant sitting canal-side in Paddington, Ayllu isn’t exactly hard to find, but it has the air of a hidden hideaway. You have to walk through said eatery to enter, but as soon as you descend the stairs there is a distinct vibe shift. Bright lights are dimmed; peppy pop is swapped for live beats; and generic becomes atmospheric with Amazon-green walls, gold-glowing lamps and warm woods. 

On a recent Saturday night, the live DJ was going for broke, pretending he was headlining in Ibiza, but I liked the commitment, as did the crowd – mostly tables of friends and even a few families. Tropical tipples garlanded in palms, crowned in flowers, and foamy pisco sours also did wonders for the vibe: everyone seemed to be there for the drinks as much as the food.

Don’t miss Ayllu’s titular chicken fried rice, with truffle, edamame, and an oozing poached egg

And about the food: Ayllu is one of London’s many nikkei (Peruvian and Japanese fusion) restaurants. Expect plates like tiraditos (raw fish, cut like sashimi and drizzled in marinade), bite-sized crispy tacos served with cured seafood, bao and ceviche sushi rolls with white fish and mayo infused with leche de tigre (tiger’s milk, a citrus-based, spicy marinade used to cure a classic Peruvian ceviche). I always ask servers for recommendations. Not what should I order, but what would they order. At most restaurants, this is a good tip, but at Ayllu it’s a necessity.

The dishes really vary: the sushi is standard-issue and pretty forgettable, even though an attempt has been made to be creative (e.g. the Vinicunca uramaki with avocado, tuna and salmon, inspired by the famous rainbow mountains in the Peruvian Andes). But others shine: notably, the trio of tacos stuffed with salmon, tuna and avocado, respectively (the perfect textural combo of deep-fried crispy shell and creamy, cool filling), and the fluffy-as-clouds bao, somewhat modestly filled with rich slow-cooked beef shin with salty-sweet teriyaki sauce and a punch of spicy roccoto (hot pepper) cream. And don’t miss Ayllu’s titular chicken fried rice, with truffle, edamame and an oozing poached egg. It’s the kind of dish worth returning for. Desserts are mediocre, unfortunately – don’t bother saving room. Instead, double-down on the tacos. 

The vibe: Buzzing subterranean drinking and dining den serving nikkei cuisine canal-side in Paddington.   

The food: Sharing dishes that range from sushi and ceviche to tacos and tiraditos, fusing Japanese and Peruvian cooking techniques and ingredients. 

The drink: Perfumed cocktails featuring hibiscus, white lychee, guava and sake.

Time Out tip: A loud and lively resident DJ spins nightly Thursday to Saturday, so book (or avoid) according to preference. 

Written by
Nicole Trilivas


Smith's Bar & Grill
25 Sheldon Square
W2 6EY
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