Floral by Lima
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A second London venue showcasing Virgilio Martinez’s Peruvian cooking style - but here focusing on texture and taste rather than high-tech wizardry.
Turning up at a smart destination restaurant with a large suitcase is always going to be awkward. What’s more awkward is not being able to find the front door. I’m not sure who was more surprised, us or the kitchen porters, when we marched, suitcase in tow, through the kitchen door of Central, currently the hottest restaurant in Lima, Peru. Central is so discreet it doesn’t even bother with a sign. But its dishes are the opposite, with plate after plate dazzling its mixed clientele of tourists and wealthy Lima residents.
There’s no such problem finding the new London outpost – its sign is clearly visible. And considering the near-impossibility of transposing chef Virgilio Martinez’s uniquely Peruvian style of cooking more than 6,000 miles, they’ve done a pretty good job. This is Martinez’s second London restaurant, following on from the success of Lima in Rathbone Place, an elaborate affair that has already bagged him a Michelin star. Lima Floral, on Covent Garden’s Floral Street, is not a copy but an extension of this gambit, and showcases more Peruvian classics. This time there’s a little less fuss, a more reasonable price tag, and a bar in the basement serving pisco cocktails.
Interesting textures and depth of flavour, rather than the high-tech wizardry of Central or Lima, take centre stage here. Sea bream ceviche comes as a sublime starter, teamed with mounds of guacamole-like avocado uchucuta (salsa), speared with dried onion slices and sprinkled with toasted corn. Sea bream is also used for a main, this time served hot and swimming in a sharp ‘tiger’s milk’ (citrus-based ceviche marinade) tempered by sweet-potato purée.
Humble vegetarian dishes surprise; chunks of rehydrated chuño (freeze-dried) potato are stewed in a moreish cheesy sauce garnished with peppery shiso leaves, while a soy and sesame stir-fried black variety of quinoa is a nod to Peru’s Chifa – Chinese meets Peruvian – heritage.
Desserts are also intricate and way outside the norm, with the humble potato meeting the dehydrator to whimsical effect. Sweet purple potato powder is piled on top of coffee ice cream, while dried purple potato crisps, laced with syrup, rise out of a custard apple mousse that’s sprinkled with ground maca, a dried root.
Lima Floral is perfect for diners looking for a new kick, but who find Lima too fussy and too pricey. Here, Martinez’s dishes are playful and imaginative. And there’s no need to fly to the Pacific coast of Peru, suitcase in tow, to try and find them.
14 Garrick Street
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