Mr Lemur had a significant birthday this year, and we’ve been celebrating in our usual half-assed fashion. We’re neither of us very good with marking dates and occasions – for instance, half the time we both forget our wedding anniversary and when people ask us when it is, we literally have to work it out based on other, more important things in our lives. Birthdays are easier to remember but we still don’t do a lot of planning. So when the actual day came around, all we had actually set up was a dinner in London with Lemur pal K. Happily, the universe did a bit of birthday planning for us – a check in with the Crocodiles led us to meet them in a Soho bar and then they ran into another pair of glamorous London friends so the next thing we knew prosecco had been purchased and we had an impromptu birthday party. Hurrah! There was some value to thinking ahead, though, because we scored a table at Lima, Virgilio Martinez’s London outpost.
Lima was an easy choice for treating Mr Lemur. He misses Latin American food and, although Peruvian and Chilean cuisines have some very distinct differences, there are overlaps that make him a very happy bunny indeed. We kicked things off with delicious breads, flavoured butters, and some very correct pisco sours. (Peru and Chile fight about who invented the pisco sour. Without prejudicing that question, I will say that Lima makes really really good ones. Mr Lemur had the standard while I went for one with hibiscus juice.) Unable to make any decisions, we opted for the tasting menu, which was actually very good value at £48 for seven courses.
First up was a sea bream ceviche with passionfruit and yellow aji pepper, which was really lovely. The fish was silky and the seeds gave a nice crunch. The aji was mild and there was a bit of tart sweetness in there too from the fruit. All three of us loved this dish.
Next we had purple potato causa with black quinoa and rocoto aji. We used to be obsessed with purple Pervuian potatoes when we lived in the midwest and bought them from our local farmers’ market. This dish really highlighted their flavour, making the potato the star in a way that only a Peruvian restaurant could do. Although it’s beautifully mod in presentation, the image doesn’t do justice to how tasty this dish was. The contrast of chewy quinoa with smooth potato purée was also pleasing.
Now, this is where we went a bit off piste. The thing is, we wanted the tasting menu but there was also a daily special that made Mr Lemur’s little Chilean heart go pitter pat. Locos, or abalone, stuffed with cheese and grilled is a Chilean seafood staple, and as soon as the waiter mentioned the dish, there was no way we weren’t ordering it. So…we asked if we could just add it into the tasting menu, you know, as a little extra. It felt extravagant but I am so glad we did. These were decadent morsels of goodness.
Back to the tasting menu was beef crudo, paper thin slices of beef topped with vinegar reduction, a tamarind glaze and some sort of mild soft cheese. That glaze was amazing, and could have eaten it up with a spoon.
Next was the dish pictured at the top of the post, octopus atop a thick sauce of amazonian cashew nuts, cilantro and corn. This dish was a real winner – alongside the abalone, it was my favourite of the night. The octopus was beautifully charred and the sauce was sweet and savoury in a way that really appealed to me.
The last main dish was lamb seco, which is dry rubbed with warming spices and served on a bed of dried potatoes. These latter are a Peruvian staple that you really don’t find anywhere else. I’ve been wanting to try them for ages and they didn’t disappoint. They had a toothsome quality that gave a lovely textural contrast with the meltingly soft meat. Chewy potatoes probably doesn’t sound so hot, but trust me, these were delicious. In fact, this was the only point that we questioned the wisdom of the tasting menu, as we saw giant plates of lamb seco wending their way to other customers.
Since it was Mr Lemur’s birthday, we didn’t have the standard tasting menu dessert, but instead got a special ice cream plate with dulce de leche, coffee and some other ice creams that I’m ashamed to say we ate before we could photograph them! In our defence, ice cream does melt quickly in the summer so we had to eat fast… We did manage to capture the petit fours, though, which were rather wonderful too.
Overall, Lima turned out to be a bit more expensive than we’d anticipated, but we have only ourselves to blame for that, what with the extra dishes and the multiple rounds of pisco sours. The food itself was a real South American treat for Mr Lemur and K and I were pretty happy with it too. Next up, the travel part of the birthday…
Lima, 31 Rathbone Place, Fitzrovia, London, W1T 1JH