Martin Morales Strikes Another Peruvian Punch With Andina Picantería
The fashionable, belt-busting food scene in Notting Hill has yet another snazzy eatery to add to its repertoire: Andina Picantería.
The Peruvian restaurant is the latest culinary venture of Martin Morales, who has been branded “something of a Peruvian ambassador” by The Guardian. A just summation for a man who has popularised Peruvian gastronomy in London with three acclaimed restaurants.
For those unfamiliar with Peruvian culture — and we're no experts — picantería is a traditional roadside restaurant in Peru. We suspect that Notting Hill’s picantería is a somewhat chic take on its rustic South American counterpart. The vibrant pink cushions, eclectic clay pot ceiling lamps and contemporary art work are possibly as reflective of the local clientele as they are of Peruvian culture. Still, it is a comfortable, albeit small, dining space; your elbow may trespass your fellow diners’ table once or twice.
The menu is made up snacks, small plates and big plates, with a variety of meat, fish and vegetarian options. We recommend the Adina baked breads to start. They are made fresh every day from the adjoining bakery — Andina Panaderia — and offer an eclectic mix of ingredients and flavours. Our personal favourite is the sourdough sweet potato and Andean herb.
The small plates may be small in name, but they are generous in size. If you like spicy food, then the artichoke ceviche is a must; it is very hot. Otherwise, the fermented beetroot and avocado crema offers a novel twist on familiar flavours. The near-acidic beets are surprisingly tasty.
For big plates, we order the grilled octopus and the braised aubergine. If you are in any way squeamish, steer clear of the octopus. Three severed tentacles are a far cry from any indistiguishable fried squid you may have come across in the past. But if you can stomach the sight of the elongated organs, then you will have no trouble with the taste. It is delicious.
The braised aubergine is also a triumph, though we’re not so keen on the side of quinoa patty; it is too dry for our liking.
The choice of pudding is simple, but inviting: flan, leches cake or chocolate tart. We settle on the cake and tart.
Soaked in condensed milk, evaporated milk and heavy cream, the tres leches or ‘three milk’ cake is deceivingly light. We detect a note of spice (cinnamon perhaps) in the soft sponge, which marries perfectly with the velvety cream.
The chocolate tart, with salted dulce de leche cream, is every bit as decadent. The centre cuts like butter; we can feel it sticking to our gut. And yet, we cannot put down our spoons. The heart attack is worth it.
It may be early days for Andina Picantería, but we suspect it will follow in the footsteps of its mother restaurant. It seems the Peruvian apple cactus doesn’t fall from the tree.
Andina Picantería, 157 Westbourne Grove, London W11 2RS.
Last Updated 24 May 2018