Saturday, 8 March 2014

Andina, Shoreditch High Street

Peruvian cuisine has had a buzz about it for a few years now. We've had some quite high end openings over in W1, and a few more rustic versions popping up over in Clapton and Essex Road. In San Francisco, Peruvian cuisine has firmly hit the upper middle market with a wonderful mini chain called Limon, and a recent opening in Shoreditch, Andina, may be the start of a mainstream, quality, accessible Peruvian cuisine in London.

Andina opened just before Christmas without too much hype, but the good reviews started rolling in and it's pretty much booked up all night, every night. There are good reasons for this: despite its Shoreditch setting, it is very down-to-earth and chummy - no surly hipsters ogling their own tattoos, but happy, attentive staff, excited about the menu, explaining the options and telling you about their favourites.

The centrepiece of the menu is clearly the ceviche - marinated and cured fish and seafood. At its most basic, ceviche can be just lime juice, chilli and some finely diced onions, maybe a bit of coconut milk. At Andina, crispy bits of corn, avocado, sweet potato, pecan and goldenberries (physallis) all make an appearance, and the subject matter include trendy cod cheek, thinly sliced hake, sea bass, and even a beef carpaccio version and a wild mushroom option for the vegetarians.

The flavours and the freshness are out of this world. Top quality ingredients are used, the portions of the good stuff are generous (in other places I've found scallops and prawns diced so finely you'd hardly notice they were there), and you don't feel in the slightest cheated by the £8 price tag. Smooth.

In a rookie but delicious error my dining buddy and I both ordered the same main: Aji de Gallina, which was an incredible, complex, thick sauce with ground pecan, chillies, spices, shredded chicken, a hard boiled egg, a succulent quinoa coated fried chicken drumstick, all on top of some rice. It was hearty, filling but saved from stodge by all the interesting flavours.

All of this washed down very well with perfectly made pisco sours: a drink designed to be re-ordered.

We didn't have much room for dessert, and my Latin American blood knows how good those eggy, creamy desserts can be. But we figured we'd just about be able to squeeze in a sharing platter of pumpkin doughnuts. Fresh out the fryer, served with two hot dipping sauces: one cinnamon, one chocolate. Both incredible, and the doughnuts were some of the best I've had (and I've had a few).

We didn't hold back and the bill came to over £40 a head with tips, but it'd be easy to spend closer to £25 - £30 ahead with a bit more discipline and sharing. We're glad we didn't, though: it still felt like good value for the quality of the food and drinks, generous, portions, top ingredients and warm service.

Andina do an interesting looking brunch too, with brightly coloured healthy juices, more eggs, etc. Booking is essential at any time of day - but it's nice and easy using their online booking system, and at least when we were there, no table turning was going on. All in, Andina is a very welcome addition to Shoreditch's maturing restaurant scene.

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