The Halal: A huge selection of seafood and vegetarian dishes but the meat and poultry are NOT halal. Pork and alcohol are served at Coya.
The Place: Facing Green Park and amongst the most affluent hotels in Park Lane is Coya: London’s coolest Peruvian restaurant. The chefs work under the inquisitive eyes of customers in three open kitchens: the open charcoal grill, the ceviche bar and the central kitchen. They throw knives and do tricks but if you’re sat at the opposite end of the restaurant you’ll miss the entertainment: this may be a good or bad thing depending on your taste! The interior decor is Latino meets Mayfair: dim lighting, peruvian tribal masks hanging on metallic walls, leather sofas and tables and doors made of rustic dark wood. Head chef Sanjay Dwivedi cooked for over a decade at Zaika in Kensington and spent some time working at Astrid Y Gaston in Lima – one hopes the experience is reflected in the cooking!
The Food: Our waitress was extremely helpful and suggested we try several of the most popular dishes which was a blessing in hindsight given we didn’t have a clue! The plates are for sharing and we were told it would be good to choose a selection of 3-4 per person depending on how hungry we were.
A Peruvian restaurant would not be complete without a fine selection of Ceviche. We went for the Atun Chifa (yellowfin tuna, sesame seeds, shrimp cracker) which was elegantly served on ice.
The tiraditos are similar to ceviche but with thinner slices of marinated fish. We decided to go for the Pez Limon (yellowtail, green chilli, radish). The presentation was exquisitely colourful and very artistic. The taste was fantastic as well! Tangy and full of zest with little bubbles of caviar popping in your mouth.
We were next recommended to try the Chilean sea bass with amarillo chilli. The waitress informed us that they sell more than 100 portions per day and it is on of their most popular dishes. The sea bass was cooked to perfection with a sweet and sticky coating and then a warm spicy aftertaste. We were also encouraged to try the Ensala de Maiz (Corn salad). This was prepared with three different varieties of corn and was absolutely fantastic- soft and crispy textures with the sweetness of corn and tang of lime: a flavour sensation to tell your friends about and who would have thought these simple ingredients would have us excited so much!
We were keen to try something from the charcoal grill and as the meat was not halal we went for the monkfish. This was barbequed on a Josper which is a type of Peruvian grill that adds a smoky flavour. The monkfish was a bit of a disappointment in taste and presentation. To accompany we ordered the sprouting broccoli and the Patatas Bravas a la Peruana which came with a spicy tomato and cream sauce.The patatas bravas disappeared quite quickly off the plate- yum!
A ‘cazuela’ is a South American cooking pot. The vegetarian one at Coya was called the Papa Seca- peruvian dried potatoes, butternut squash, broccoli and a poached egg. We were expecting a dry dish of potatoes but instead received a stew of vegetables and egg. Unexpectedly, the taste was quite nice. There was a depth of flavour in this hearty pot of food.
We’d left just enough space for some desserts.
An exotic fruit bowl, chocolate ganache dessert with raspberries and the Mousse de Lucuma. Lucuma is a subtropical fruit found in the Andean valleys of Peru. It was not the most flavoursome of fruits but the crunchy shortbread and the citrus of the passion fruit gel coating ended our meal on a pleasant note.
The Price: It wasn’t a cheap meal but be left feeling full! Approximately £50 for 3 plates per person not including drinks.
The Verdict: Coya could be my new favourite restaurant and I’m upset to not have found it sooner! I loved the new flavours and the different methods of cooking involved in Peruvian cuisine. The presentation was fantastic and the service was exactly what I’d expect paying Mayfair prices. Disappointing that it isn’t Halal but with so much fish on the menu I didn’t particularly notice the lack of meat!