Soho is one of my favourite parts of London for eating. It’s full of great places, often tucked in next to the neon-lit seediness, and always feels vibrant and busy. But lots of the good restaurants are often so busy that you either need to eat at 5.30 or 9.30 in the evening, which can be a bit frustrating. Especially when lots of the places don’t take bookings, and the only choice is to turn up hopeful, with a back-up plan.
I’ve read lots about this no-bookings trend, and I’m not going to debate whether I think it works or not, but it does make it tricky to go to new places if you turn up around 7pm. A few weeks ago L and I tried to go to Flat Iron, as I’d heard good things about this £10 (no-booking) steak place. There was a waiting time of 2 and a half hours – not good if you’re hungry. Then to Pitt Cue Co (fabulous pulled pork) with their bar also crammed with people waiting, and then the same story at Spuntino (delicious shoe-string fries and truffled egg and cheese toast).
We ended up at Ceviche rather un-optimistic, but were given a table straight away. It’s a cosy spot on Frith Street, with a little bar at the front. My recent trip to Coya introduced me to Peruvian food and the wonder of pisco sours - those at Ceviche were smooth and citrus sharp, with a number of different types on the menu (including a lovely passion fruit one).
The menu is made up of small plates designed for sharing, which we studied while munching some of their Cancha, a crunchy Peruvian corn that’s a little like un-popped popcorn, but much nicer and rather less teeth-shattering. We then shared dishes that included good cassava chips (a bit like woodier potato), cheese and chard taquenos (little crispy parcels, molten inside), and a quinoa salad that was interesting, but in a dressing that was a little sweet.
Ceviche is typically raw fish marinated in citrus and chilli, and it felt only right to try a few of the namesake dishes. The Don Ceviche was seabass in Amarillo chilli tiger’s milk (the ceviche marinade), limo chilli and red onion, and was fresh, tart and tangy. The mushroom and sweet potato ceviche was less successful, but maybe ordering any non-fish ceviche just isn’t the best idea. I was surprised that the more wild-card choice of beef-heart was my favourite dish. Grilled with a lovely smoky char, this was tender and full of beefiness without being offaly, and a great match with the spicy anticuchera sauce and giant choclo corn.
We shared a dessert of cinnamon sponge soaked in pisco syrup, with creamy dulce de leche ice cream. The bill (including a couple of pisco sours each) was around £70, so it’s not the cheapest, but definitely an affordable option if you don’t go mad with ordering (it’s easy to get carried away in ‘small plate’ places). It’s a fun, colourful restaurant (my photos make the inside and the food dingier looking than in reality), and feels a little piece of Lima in the middle of a rather greyer London.