Restaurant Review: Pachamama

Tasting the spirit of Peru – literally – in deepest Marylebone

With Peruvian dining spots popping up all over London, the Peruvian and British fusion bar and restaurant Pachamama is set to be a lasting fixture with its seductive menu, home-made spirits and South American attitude.

At street level, the entrance is inconspicuously marked with a neon “A”, giving the place a clandestine feel as you make your way down the stairs and through the velvet curtains. On the other side, the feeling of stumbling upon a secret stays. The rough walls are softened by eclectic decorative side tables, vintage lampshades and eccentric touches that include a life-sized wooden horse in the corner.

Your eyes are drawn to the gleaming bar at the heart of Pachamama, where we took two seats. The cocktail menu opens with a section devoted to pisco, the national spirit of Peru. The classic pisco sour is missing from the list, informing diners and drinkers alike that they’re in for a Peruvian experience done the Peruvian way. Oozing confidence, and rightly so, the mixologists presented us with concoctions that were deliciously strong and beautifully presented, right down to the edible garnishes.

After the cocktails, our incredible waiter Fabien took us to our table. The menu, he explained passionately, consists of three parts: land (grill), sea (ceviche) and soil (salads). We followed his recommendation of six small plates, two from each section.

Like the bar staff, the chefs know a thing or two about presentation. Each dish arrived with vibrant colours, mouth-watering sauces and marinades, and sensational aromas. The crispy lamb belly was deliciously tender, balanced by the zesty green miso sauce. Although it was slightly too rich for me, my date was more than happy to clean the plate. The yellowtail tuna, served in a surprising blood-red ceviche, was fresh and zesty and retained its melt-in-the-mouth texture, a testament to the freshness of the ingredients.

Vegetable-based dishes can often be treated as sides, but our favourite dish at Pachamama was the fried aubergine with smoked yoghurt and pecans. The combination of hay-smoked yoghurt and charred yet soft aubergine was well thought out, with the ingredients working perfectly together to create a most satisfying meal on every level. This is what food should do for you.

Pre-dessert, Fabien brought us two palette-cleansing “tiger’s backs”. This is a South American twist on the pickleback, using the citrus-based ceviche marinate known as tiger’s milk instead of pickle juice. As a man who enjoys his pisco, Fabien advised drinking it in reverse to really taste the flavour. I would recommend this only to experienced drinkers, the curious and those who want to feel drunk quickly, as the tiger’s back packs a much stronger punch than its northern counterpart!

Dessert at Pachamama is a gastronomic delight, so do leave room for it. We had the suspiro de limeña (an almond-and-port-laden meringue) and the torta de chocolate with toasted quinoa ice cream. While not Peruvian, this deconstructed torte was decadently sweet, flavoured with rich Peruvian cacao, and was the perfect end to this indulgent experience.

Pachamama is the perfect location to impress a date, for drinks or dinner. Confident, intoxicating and intimate, it has all the qualities of a great venue. At around £80 a head (including drinks and service) it may be a bit expensive for a first date, but in terms of the quality of cooking, atmosphere and service, the price really is worth it. Their weekday lunch menu is a cheaper option with all plates at £6, and there’s a DJ at the weekend for an even livelier atmosphere.

pachamamalondon.com

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