If there’s one cuisine I had to eat nothing but for a month, you can bet it’s the diverse palette of Peruvian food. It’s probably the sole reason that Lima remains high on my travel bucket list. Coya’s Culinary Chef, Sanjay Dwivedi built up his fusion empire from his gastronomical adventure in one of the largest countries in the world. Now there are two restaurants, one in Mayfair and the other which I visited, Angel Court. A cozy space that sits pretty along a side street, right in the middle of The City. So yes – expect a suited crowd and the staple glamorous hostesses.
Let’s start this Coya restaurant review where I began the night – at the bar. While you’re waiting to be seated, go for the fresh guacamole to curb those hunger pangs. This is made right in front of you and served with shrimp or corn crackers (£8). Then there’s Coya’s version of a Negroni made with mezcal, of course. It’s a must try and much lighter than the classic, without losing its signature heavy hit. The bar recommends their pisco sour (£12), which is made using their in-house ‘library’ of infused piscos. As for the food, we’re told that the menu varies slightly every month. The selection of ceviches, tiraditos and the signature dish, Arroz Nikkei (sea bass slow cooked in an iron pot with rice) are evergreen – and with good reason. These are the plates you don’t want to miss. If there was ever a time to indulge, Coya is most definitely worth the calories and that horrific cardio session that awaits you the next day.
By London’s standards, Coya’s ceviches are passable. And I say this with a heavy heart as there’s nothing I love more than this refreshing, addictive dish. The tasting platter offers three varieties to experience (£28). The lubina clasica (£9 by itself), sea bass with red onions and corn, came out the strongest and I’d recommend just going for this. It’s a wonderful mix of textures, where hunks of raw fish bathe in a pool of Tiger’s Milk. It was the tiradito hiramasa (£14), a wonderful kingfish sashimi topped with truffle sauce and wallowing in a light, creamy dashi that was the highlight of the night. This is the kind of dish you dream you’re going to fantasise about when you’re stuck with your boring salad for lunch the next day.
As for the tacos, these come in servings of three canape-sized shells. Who doesn’t love a soft shell crab dish with yuzu and aioli (£12)? The only downside is that the sure crowd-pleaser doesn’t quite live up to the expected portion size. The pulpo rostizado, octopus with sweet potato puree is a close second (£17) to the kingfish dream. This is one you’ve got to try. Grilled yet succulent, it’s packed full of moreish flavour and offset by the creamy sweetness of potato. Although a classic Incan plate, it’s not always done as well as this.
Coya’s menu is enticing enough but the monthly specials are the reason to keep returning. We tried their grilled lobster, which came de-clawed and sizzling with just the right amount of smokiness. Here’s hoping it will become a mainstay! The Arroz Nikkei (£39) however, which refers to the Japanese-Peruvian strain of cooking (as opposed to Chifa, which is the Chinese influence), is the one dish you just can’t stop picking at. It’s the most incredible, fluffy yet sticky rice, laden with that umami flavour with that punch of lime. Then the hunks of Chilean sea bass… if you thought £40 was hefty for a carb dish, prepare to change your mind.
Now what monster could possibly end a meal like this without a hearty portion of churros? Bringing us back to our childhoods are fragrant orange and lime dough sticks that come encircled in a pool of hot milk chocolate. The waiter also recommended the cheesecake, which is comparably lighter and accompanied by coconut sorbet. Even your pickiest friends will find something to love here. And if they don’t then that’s even better, I wouldn’t share my tiradito if I didn’t have to!
31-33 Throgmorton St