Food-lovers might have notice the recent arrival of many South American restaurants in the capital, adding to long-established names including Gaucho for high-end Argentine steaks, superb wines and cocktails, and multi-award-winning Wahaca for quality Mexican market affordable eats.
Traditionalists and carnivores might opt for an Argentine asado-style meat fest, starting with morcilla (blood sausage) and chorizo or empanadas (little hand-held pasties), followed by superb steaks. The other option is a tapas-style menu with lots of different flavours. With Peruvian food order the ceviche and indulge in the national drink of pisco sour. There may be options of fusion and aim to enjoy a mix of cultures and flavours at Sushisamba, which mixes Japanese, Peruvian and Brazilian fare. Latin cuisine is clearly the flavour of the month.
Zoila, in Marylebone showcases regional Argentine food, which means much more than just big, macho steaks. Fine dining is offered in this intimate restaurant. Sit at one of five tables upstairs or head downstairs and watch the chefs at work in the open kitchen. Think tapas-style dishes and order the seriously good empanadas of beef, chicken or spinach, almonds and honey.
The prawns, pork belly and chorizo gives a flavour hit, and the flank steak with mashed celeriac and bone marrow seems to be an innovative example of how marinating and slow cooking (six to eight hours) a more affordable cut may be food alchemy.
Sweet-toothed diners may adore the dulche de leche crème brulée with homemade banana split ice cream — a favourite Argentine ingredient put to clever new use. Enjoy all this with a bottle of malbec, which really does work well the big flavours of the food.
Ceviche, a relaxed restaurant with its lively soundtrack may be the place to go for informal Peruvian food. The classic ceviche comprises fresh sea bass ‘cooked’ for just three minutes in tiger’s milk (lime juice, chilli, ginger, garlic, salt and pepper) and served with sweet potato and thin slices of raw onion; expect tangy, interesting flavours.
New dishes reportedly worth ordering include the prawn chowder chupe, a satisfying and warming soup dish, and the carapulcra, an Andean stew of braised pork belly, potatoes, chocolate and roasted peanuts. Alternatively, one option is to sit at the bar and enjoy a pisco sour or a decent Argentine malbec, bonarda or torrontés.
Also Peruvian however more of a fine-dining destination, elegant Lima aims to deliver traditional foods with imaginative and delicious twists. The sea bream ceviche is served with sliced onion that has been air-dried for a sweeter and fresher taste as well as Inkan corn for added bite.
The menu showcases Peruvian products — such as the popular confit of suckling pig with roasted Amazonian cashews, lentils and pear, or the braised lamb shoulder with coriander and pisco jus and black quinoa. Look out for specials, such as a hot (and therefore double-cooked) ceviche, and a marinated beef with squash purée. The pisco sour is fabulous and there’s a well-chosen wine list.
Its entrance on Old Compton Street in Soho, La Bodega Negra is unmarked, however make it through an illuminated sex shop doorway to enjoy food that may be better than the flashy facade might suggest.
Here, the ceviche comprises just lime and lemon juice instead of the Peruvian tiger’s milk mixture, and there seems to be plenty of great tostaditas, a sort of crunchy tortilla, to choose from including roasted vegetable, spicy shrimp and tuna. La Bodega Negra also has a relaxed diner-style café just around the corner at 16 Moor Street. There’s zero need to book here. Choose the huevos rancheros, a interesting egg lunch.
What may at first seem an eclectic mix of Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian makes sense when considering that South American countries are built on immigration from countries including Italy, Spain and Japan. The first Sushisamba opened in New York in 1999 and its six sister restaurants now include London, occupying the 38th and 39th floors of the Heron Tower.
It’s been described as a destination – the views are spectacular and the design of the restaurant is funky. As for the food, there’s a heavy Japanese accent on starters such as rock shrimp tempura, or try a sashimi ceviche. Larger dishes include a ribeye steak and a moqueca mista, a Brazilian fish stew.
How has the additions of these South American restaurants spiced up the London food scene?