Tried & Tested

Restaurant check: Andina

17 Feb 2014 by Jenny Southan

BACKGROUND

Peruvian food has become a hot new dining trend for London, so this new opening, in the capital’s equally trendy Shoreditch (a ten-minute walk from the City), couldn’t be more on the pulse.

Following the success of their first Peruvian restaurant, Ceviche, in Soho, founder Martin Morales and head chef Tomasz Baranski together unveiled its sister eatery Andina in December.

THE RESTAURANT

The colourful, lively interiors occupy two floors, with the ground level sporting, an open-kitchen in the corner where you can see the cooks at work and a coffee/juice bar at the far end. Diners sit at snugly positioned square tables, some offering views on to the street, while above hang clusters of wicker lampshades.

The atmosphere is warm and bright and convivial, with hipster designers, social media enthusiasts and creative media types happily discussing the merits of the 50 per cent vegetarian menu and sharing photos on Instagram of their beautifully arranged dishes.

Business people from the financial district won’t feel out of place either, as it’s smart and chic – perfect for a quick power breakfast, healthy lunch with colleagues or a relaxed bite in the evening.

Downstairs has a sit-up ceviche bar and additional tables – although pleasant, upstairs is probably preferable. The minimalist décor blends industrial and rustic elements, with a mix of granite and brick walls, wooden floors, hand-knotted Peruvian textiles, toilets with fluoro jungle murals, brass spot lights and Scandi furniture. There is also a private dining space called the Music room that can seat up to 18 people.

THE FOOD

The menu is an exciting one, especially for anyone who is into their superfoods. As well as seasonal British produce, you will find lots of exotic Peruvian ingredients, with explanations provided on a card on your table. Here are some examples:

Maca – like ginseng, a root rich in calcium iron, protein and vitamin C.

Amaranth – a seed full of iron, manganese, phosphorus and fibre.

Muna – a flavourful minty herb used as a digestive.

Cassava – also known as yucca and manioc, it’s a root vegetable with a texture somewhere between a parsnip and a potato.

Uchucuta – a sauce made from coriander, parsley, tarragon, basil and mint.

Tiger’s milk – a fresh lime juice and chilli marinade for ceviche.

Ocopa – a sauce made from pecans, peanuts, fresco cheese, herbs and chillies.

Quinoa – a staple grain, high in protein, rich in magnesium, zinc and vitamins C, B and E. (Pictured below is the creamed quinoa, artichoke and mushroom risotto.)

Ordering plates to share is a common approach, and means you get to try a greater variety of options. Every dish is attractive and carefully arranged to show off the textures and colours of the ingredients against wood, glass or china. Although artistic, it’s not fussy – it’s the kind of food that deserves to get stuck into, even if it looks too pretty to do so. The portions are good value and the flavours wonderfully fresh and moreish.

I ordered the setas ceviche of thinly sliced wild mushrooms in Amarillo chilli tiger’s milk, sweet potato and orange honey dressing (£8), which was unusually citrusy and earthy. Other options for fish lovers included marinated sea bass with goldenberry, avocado and red onion (£8).

I also requested to share a solterito salad (broad beans, fresco cheese, giant corn kernels, tomatoes, baby gem lettuce, rocoto pepper, botija olives and sacha inchi dressing, £7) with my companion as a starter, but both of these were forgotten and didn’t arrive until half way through the mains (the service was well meaning but a little haphazard).

The highlight was the juicy, meat-free quinoa burger – a red and white quinoa patty, topped with uchucuta herb sauce, raw red onion, tomato in a soft seeded bun. On the side was a tasty yoghurt dip with maca, papaya, mint and kiwi. Instead of chips, I had a side of fried, golden cassava root with Andean ocopa nut and herb dip – a genuinely tasty alternative to fries and mayo. I also thought the burger was very well priced at £8, and filling too.

Carnivores will be pleased to find the “pig butty” (£6) for breakfast or lunch, made with confit pork belly chicharrones in a soft bun with Amarillo chilli sauce and sweet potato ketchup. The aju de gallina casserole of crispy quinoa-coated chicken, chilli, pecans and rice is another popular item.

The dessert I chose was a little disappointing – dry, brittle sticks of filo pastry filled with dulce de leche caramel next to a ball of pecan ice cream. I probably should have gone for the thinly sliced fresh pineapple dressed in lime, mint and sweet chilli, which sounded more refreshing (both £5).

Instead of coffee (it is all Fair Trade) I tried a mug of hot, sweet cinnamon “emoliente”, which was comforting and soothing, and rich in vitamin C and minerals, apparently. The Andean drink is an infusion of toasted barley, linseed, plantain leaf, horsetail tincture, alfalfa sprouts, quince, lime and honey, and is a lot nicer than it might sound.

VERDICT

The Peruvian food Andina serves is vibrant, healthy, surprising and moreish – well worth a visit if you are in the area. The menu is well priced and the atmosphere is laid-back and fun. A good daytime hangout, as well as evening haunt.

FACT FILE

  • OPENING HOURS Weekdays 8am-11pm, weekends from 10am. Weekend brunch 10-4pm.
  • PRICES Street food £2-£8; ceviches £5-£8.50; mains £10.50-£12. 

 Jenny Southan

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