Last Saturday, London’s first Peruvian restaurant, Andina, opened its doors. ELL headed down for brunch and a bit of Latino spirit.
Just a hop, skip and a jump from Shoreditch station, we are greeted warmly at Andina’s door and seated at a brightly tiled bar.
Suspended from the ceiling above us are charming wicker lampshades, and a colourful fabric weaving hangs on the wall. The kitchen – open to view – features brushed copper, stainless steel, and of course: busy chefs.
“In the mountains, in the Andes of Peru, particularly in Cusco and Arequipa which are two beautiful regions,” begins owner Martin Morales, “there are these restaurants called ‘picanterías’.“
“So, I grew up going to these places, and my grandma used to cook in one. The ‘Andina’ is the lady at the centre of it all, the lady who cooks everything. That’s who my grandma was, hence the name – it is the real soul food of Peru.”
Morales was born in Peru, to a Peruvian mother and British father. He moved to the less exotic Leicester in the 1980s.
Morales started professional life as a DJ, combining music with food at events like Global Kitchen in Leeds. He went on to work in the record industry, then at the European arm of iTunes, and eventually at Disney Music Group.
However, drawn to something more hands-on and creative, Morales decided to return to his roots. He opened his other restaurant Ceviche, in Soho, to serve traditional Peruvian coastal food, and this summer, he published his cookbook, ‘Ceviche: Peruvian Kitchen’.
We kick off our Latino feast with a couple of smoothies. The ‘Urubamba’, with blueberries, quinoa, goat’s milk yoghurt, quinoa milk, purple maize flour and honey, is deliciously creamy and rich. It definitely lives up to its claim on the menu: “Breakfast in a cup.”
The ‘Inti’ smoothie, with mango, lucuma, lime, quinoa milk and vanilla, is fruity and flavourful. Morales says: “Lucuma is a fruit native to Peru that only grows on the hills leading down into the Amazon rainforest, it’s full of nutrients, a bit like a green mango.”
Afterwards, brunch arrives with plates piled high with brightly coloured, enticing goodies.
The ‘Choclo Corn Cake’ is a savoury-yet-sweet moist slice of sponge, made from corn and fresco cheese, topped with poached egg, red onion salsa and avocado, with a splash of orange Huancaina sauce.
The egg is perfectly poached with a rich gooey centre, and the combination of sweet corn and creamy avocado with the slightly spicy Huancaina sauce makes for an exciting alternative to eggs on toast.
The ‘Full Peruvian’, with fried eggs, confit pork chicharron, potato rosti, wild mushrooms, and a side of avocado on sourdough toast is a great Peruvian take on the British fry-up. The pork is tender and juicy, making a great alternative to the usual rashers of bacon.
Between us, sits the ‘Benedicto’: smoked trout on a quinoa pancake, topped with poached egg, asparagus and Amarillo chili sauce.
We gallantly tackle the tempting third dish of a smoky fish and creamy sauce, made from amarillo chilli peppers and queso fresco cheese.
Andina is designed by Jack Schneider, a Peruvian architect who studied in Brazil. The interior combines cool modernity with traditional folk pieces.
Colourful Peruvian figurines, traditional wooden story boxes depicting scenes from Peruvian life, and cheerful tapestries sit among the clean lines and chic, simple furniture.
The impressive and colourful dining room, sports a long table leading up to the fireplace, an walls decked with Morales’ prized collection of Peruvian seven-inches.
Morales said that he wants his restaurants to be the “mission for the rest of [his] life.”
“Respecting our culture and our traditions in terms of Peru, but a great restaurant, first and foremost.” Andina is well on its way.