Super Food In Shoreditch
‘If a cocktail has egg in it then its fine to drink on a Sunday morning, right?’
I agreed instantly, before my companion could have second thoughts, and cheered the clock on the wall with my cloudy grey Pisco sour. The Peruvian spirit, pisco, has an earthy bitterness that is not too many shades away from tequila. A zap of sour lemon and some added sugar gives the cocktail that South American lilt you'll find in an authentic caipirinha or mojito. The waitress looked over as the frothy head dappled the end of my nose and gave a thumbs up. Sunday brunch just got interesting.
Earlier, ‘Peruvian?’ had been met with mumbled approval as we huddled indecisively at Old Street roundabout. Now, I don’t like to get in to ruts, but weekend mornings tend to bring out the creature of habit in me. Like the dutiful leaf cutter ant, I’ll tread that same weathered route from my bacon-less kitchen to the nearest full English breakfast. This is especially true if I am lugging the bleary haze of few too many craft whatever’s from the night before. So, since quinoa was the extent of my knowledge of ‘Peruvian’ and I was feeling particularly perky, I geared up for an Andean sized trek into the unknown.
Thankfully, the trail lead me to Andina, the Shoreditch restaurant that has shovels of authenticity without a lama in sight.
Wrapped around the corner of Redchurch Street and Shoreditch High Street, the blanket grey painted exterior does little to entice the eye. What it lacks in show however, it makes up for in prestige, as the brains behind it come from pioneering chef Martin Morales, founder of the Ceviche brand. So far they have two coveted joints in Old Street and Soho.
Inside, knotted woollen scarves dyed with purple, green and orange hung on the walls, weaved with chunky cables of black. Wicker lampshades swung low over the tables as the conversation beneath filled the upper level of the restaurant with a relaxing hum. The simple furnishings and shocks of colour around the room reminded me of a Tibetan or Nepalese scene, two cultures carved in altitude that also arrest the imagination of western wanderlust.
Such was the demand for a table, we were placed on the bar seats to wait. Our high steel framed stools faced in to the kitchen which was just as populated, but with hurrying chefs. The head of the kitchen was commanding, tall and focused. He threw seasoning like confetti over dishes sitting under the copper heat lamps, awaiting to be collected by the busy waiting staff. The chrome of the bar top reflected their flashing white aprons and pulses of flame from a chef, repeatedly flambéing red onion halves and eggs in a small pan. His riven brow was cracked with the focus on his task. I couldn’t see any eyebrows when he turned around, probably victims of the constant flaming.
I was jolted out my the stare as the first two dishes arrived, where one was complete with two flame licked fried eggs and half a red onion.
Peruvian Brunch 1 Full English Breakfast 0
The Peruanazo, to state it's menu title, is crowned with ‘Burford Brown Eggs’. Cutting them open, the sticky yolk trickled through the mixture of rice, crushed beans and myriad spices underneath. Joining the party was thick, and I mean thick, belly bacon with a subtle smoke. On the side, a guacamole that wishes it was an avocado mousse, they must have used a soda stream to get that much air in to it. As this was meant to be a trip in to the unknown, the only disappointment was that I’d managed to order the Peruvian take on a full English.
All was not lost however, because If this dish had an antithesis, then it was only two inches away.
In what looked like a trifle bowl from my grandmothers locked display cabinet, there was the Ceviche Clasico, which roughly translates as ‘tastebud nirvana’. The majestically named 'leche de tigre' (lime tigers milk) is a blend of chilli, lime, salt and pulped fish stock and equates to Peruvian bread and butter. No honest ceviche is complete without this chilled potion. It is venerated in Peru, as anything that can be an aphrodisiac and hangover cure at the same time just shows how potent it is.
Paddling about in the liquid, bitesize sea bass with toasted choclo corn kernels, splinters of red onion and chunky avocado. As I went between this powerhouse, and the rich yolky rice and bacon on the plate next door, another bowl appeared. I’d forgotten about the fish empanadas that we’d ordered (blame the pisco sour) and they provided a salty crunch that was welcome, although they lacked enough punchy flavour to compete with the other dishes.
As we ended the unorthodox but exemplary Sunday morning, a snatch of lime green caught my eye hanging from a friendly waiters apron. It was a typical Andean bracelet and I asked if it had any significance.
‘It's for the lucky, very traditional from Peru’ he said enthusiastically, as he pushed the card machine towards me. Luck, however, has nothing to do with the pace with which Peruvian cuisine is taking here, and I can’t wait to become a pisco sour connoisseur as it continues to rise in popularity.
© Marc Elles and OutoftheStation.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Marc Elles and OutoftheStation.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.