The name of this Chelsea newbie is not (thankfully), a twee riff on the word ‘chic’. Chicama is actually just a coastal town in Peru.
Which is fitting, when you consider that this is the newer, more seafoody sibling of Marylebone’s Pachamama (a party restaurant, also Peruvian, popular with young moneyed sorts). The people here are no less beautiful, just a shade more mature. This is the southern, ‘resi’ enclave of SW10, after all.
So the fiesta has been toned down, but, hey, this is still a lively place where you can have a good time. Deep Latin beats ripple through the L-shaped room – a space once home to neighbourhood trattoria Osteria dell’Arancio – while the large open kitchen adds to the hubbub. Flirty young staff, as impeccably groomed as the diners, squeeze between swish marble tables dishing out plates that are modish, mini and – on the whole – marvellous.
From the selection of small plates (the most exciting part of the menu) came a knockout seabass ceviche, its citrus-cured flesh layered not just with fragrant heritage tomatoes, but with toasted sweetcorn kernels and pickled red onion. There’s a wide selection of chargrilled fish, like delicate fillet of sea bream. These all come with intriguing sauces (smoked ají panca and horseradish, say), but absolutely no carbs: just the thing if you’ve got a size six dress to squeeze into. But for sheer brilliance and creativity, the prize has to go to a simple ‘snack’ plate, of ‘tapioca marshmallows’. Imagine a chewy, gluey piece of cooked-down tapioca, with the size, shape and springiness of a marshmallow, but also with a delicious cheesiness (it’s parmesan), crispy edges (they deep-fry the cubes before serving) and a mellow chilli sauce (made with the mild, fruity-with-a-hit amarillo peppers), for dipping. Order at least one portion per person, before anyone gets any ideas about, um, ‘sharing’.
So, a pretty perfect run. Before the desserts turned up. Although just as ambitious and creative as the savouries, these were much better on paper than on the spoon. I love that a guava sorbet came scattered with black salt (thus lifting the flavour of this subtle fruit), but both this and its platemate – a grilled flat white peach – were overwhelmed by the sugar in an accompanying brown sludge (which turned out to be more peach, cooked and puréed). As for pairing delicate yuzu ice cream with undercooked meringue and raw banana? No. Just no.
Still, don’t let that put you off. Chicama is a stylish, fun place that’ll do very nicely in spite of the not-so-grand-finale. Because, let’s face it, no self-respecting Chelseaite ever actually eats pudding.