New Restaurant Review: Pachamama
Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆
Like backpackers making their way along the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, the march of Peruvian restaurants on London continues.
Marylebone’s Pachamama — named after the Incan goddess of fertility and harvests — follows the opening of Lima Floral in Covent Garden this summer and Señor Ceviche (which we also reviewed) in Soho just a month ago.
As the popularity of Peruvian cuisine grows, so its novelty factor fades and increasingly diners will ask for more from a restaurant than mere authenticity. Pachamama fuses Peruvian and British influences and uses almost entirely homegrown ingredients, we imagine in a bid to push Peruvian from a niche to a norm.
The man with the plan is British born Tom Catley, who was previously head chef at an Ottolenghi restaurant and has also worked with Rick Stein. Prior to launching Pachamama, he completed a short stint at Amaz in Lima, hailed as one of Peru’s leading restaurants.
Catley has assembled a menu of small plates that consist mainly of salads, grills and ceviche, served in a basement space close to Bond Street station. A backdrop of grey walls makes pretty plates adorned with flowers and vibrant sauces appear all the brighter, while elaborate mirrors and framed photos, antiquated chests of drawers and shelves full of knick-knacks add interest. It’s a look that’s inspired, we’re told, by the idea of a colonial home lived in by an eccentric Peruvian family.
Said family clearly eats well. Taqueños (£4.50) are small cigar-shaped filo pastry rolls filled with a gooey blend of smoked cheddar, feta and ricotta. Chicharrones (£3.50) are deep-fried chunks of pork belly that are crisp to the bite but succulently soft within, their richness lifted by a sprinkling of raw red onion and fresh mint leaves.
There are six different ceviches on offer, including two which are completely vegetarian. We try one that combines portobello and oyster mushrooms with corn (£8) in a truffle-laced version of tiger’s milk — the most common Peruvian marinade for ceviche, made from lime juice, chilli, garlic and coriander. The flavour is rich and pleasing, but the texture of cold mushrooms in sauce is — somewhat unsurprisingly — not so successful. A less off-the-wall variant with sea trout, watercress, beetroot and tiger’s milk (£9) is a more triumphant melding of British and Peruvian influences, with the citrus juices a good contrast for the earthy beetroot and oily trout.
Of slightly bigger, mainly grilled dishes, skewered veal heart (£7) is tender and deeply meaty, smoky blackened chicken (£8) does well to be aggressively seared on the outside yet juicy-fleshed within, and Gloucester Old Spot pork ribs (£10) are made lip-smacking by a sticky sweet peanut glaze.
A rice pudding made with coconut milk (£6.50) is another clever continent-crossing act, though a touch more sugar would help prevent it from feeling more like a curry accompaniment than a dessert.
Portions are small, which brings the reasonable-seeming prices in line with the West End location, but they are not unjustified by the quality of cooking.
Most impressively, Pachamama manages more than any other Peruvian restaurant in London to make this cuisine feel at home and at ease. This is not authentic or experimental fodder for culinary travellers, but well-travelled cuisine for big city diners.
We’d recommend you take a seat at the bar — where cocktails largely making use of Pisco (Peru’s national spirit) and rum are enthusiastically shaken and stirred — and order a few plates for a taste of just how cosmopolitan Peruvian can be.
Pachamama is at 18 Thayer Street, W1U 3JY.
Last Updated 19 November 2014