Thursday, 16 January 2014
There's a new restaurant opened on Shoreditch High Street. It's not selling "dirty" anything, it's not a pop-up and they aren't committing any crimes against chicken, so for these things alone we should be grateful. It's the second restaurant from Peruvian chef Martin Morales, whose first spot in Soho I quite enjoyed, and although I'm afraid it suffered slightly in comparison when Lima opened a few months later, he still deserves full marks for steering clear of bandwagons and doing his own thing while so many others are falling over themselves to just be another comfort food cash-in. Ceviche was - still is - a quirky, interesting little place that introduces Londoners to the delights of Pisco Sours and Tiger's Milk and its success was well deserved.
Andina is largely more of the same, although perhaps with a more Shoreditch-y focus on the lighter side of things (salads, ceviche, smoothies, quinoa... lots of quinoa) than the meat-loving Soho crowds were after. The weekend brunch menu we tried had "breakfast" and "eggs" sections, with a number of starter-sized things under the heading "street" alongside the important ceviches. Three of us got to try quite a range of dishes, none of them being overfacingly large, although it should be pointed out that with many "small plates" menus, the bill has a tendency to creep north of comfortable once it's all added up.
Star of the show were, as you might have expected, the ceviches. We tried two; the Sato with trout and pecan nuts, sharp and refreshing and with plenty of juicy fish; and the Siwichi, seabass with sweet half-spheres of goldenberry (physalis) and raw onion. You can't really go wrong with ceviche here or in Soho, it's Morales' strongest suit and quite rightly so.
Tamalito was a kind of mini quinoa tamale stuffed with cheese and was a nice bit of filler, if a bit teeny for the asking price of £5.50. Prawn chupe was more generous in spirit and flavour, containing more quinoa, nice big juicy prawns and with a good, strong seafood kick.
Causas Amantani was ordered mainly out of curiosity, and even after after it had gone we weren't quite sure what to make of it. Cold mashed potato is not something you'd ordinarily rush to eat, and though each colourful cake was topped with some very nicely-cooked seafood (I particularly enjoyed the scallop with a good browned crust) you still ended up having to struggle through quite a bit of chilly spud. If they're going to serve the seafood hot, why not warm the potato as well? Maybe it's some Peruvian thing.
Desserts were good. Our favourite was a lúcuma fruit (no idea) mousse with a biscuit made of yet more quinoa, although the quinoa (I'm not making this up) chocolate brownie was decent too, even if it would have perhaps been better made with, I dunno, flour. It was topped with a quinoa biscuit. Of course it was.
With some interesting smoothies, a house Bloody Mary (made with beetroot and pisco, and probably quinoa) and a little bowl of incredibly moreish Peruvian corn caled cancha (which I don't think had quinoa in but wouldn't swear to it), the bill came to £84.38 for three people. This is a lot for brunch, and although we didn't walk away disappointed by any means, it still wasn't exactly a bargain. But as with Ceviche in Soho, it's an interesting, confidently idiosynractic little restaurant and if you want an introduction to Peruvian food - or are inexplicably addicted to quinoa - you could do much worse than book a table.