Tried & Tested

Restaurant check: Coya

16 Apr 2014 by Jenny Southan

BACKGROUND This contemporary Peruvian eatery, which opened in 2012 on London’s Piccadilly, recently started serving Sunday brunch – with unlimited wine or champagne, and live jazz. Last year, it also unveiled its 50-seat private members’ lounge and terrace on the ground floor.

Coya’s head chef is Sanjay Dwivedi, who formerly worked at Le Caprice and the Ivy, as well as refining his knowledge of Peruvian cuisine in Lima, at the likes of world-renowned Astrid y Gaston. The eatery is owned by Mayfair mogul Arjun Waney, who cofounded Roka and Zuma Japanese restaurants, and now runs the exclusive Arts Club on Dover Street.

THE RESTAURANT Housed in a grand Georgian building, the restaurant itself is downstairs, in the basement (there is some natural light though coming from windows above at street level). Along with a 100-seat open-plan restaurant, there is also a ceviche bar and a ten-person chef’s table in a private dining room.

When I arrived, I received a text to say my guest was running late so staff suggested I take a seat at the long Pisco bar and enjoy a glass of fruit punch called chichada morada (it’s rather like sangria), which was sweet yet refreshing, and quite different to the bloody Mary I would normally have gone for with brunch.

When my companion arrived, we made our way through to the main dining room, which has lots of dark wood and boho South American touches, such as a traditional old blue door in front of which a three-piece band was playing.

The overall feel is stylish and exotic, but because it was a glorious Sunday afternoon and everyone was outside, it wasn’t very busy. The staff were immediately warm and welcoming, though, with our smiley waiter taking pleasure in talking us through the brunch menu and encouraging us to order champagne.

THE FOOD Brunch consists of six starters to share, followed by a choice of six main courses, including roast lamb with spiced roast potatoes and cougettes, Josper corn-fed baby chicken with aji panca (a type of Peruvian chilli pepper) and coriander aioli, and charcoal-grilled sea bream with fennel salad.

The appetisers came out in abundance, first with a steaming bowl of scrumptious steamed edamame (green soy beans in the pod) covered in rock salt, oregano and fruity aji Amarillo sauce.

Then came the sea bass classic ceviche in a zesty, milky marinade, and delicate slices of tuna tiraditos…

A salad of Peruvian white beans with gem lettuce and radish…

A portion of quinoa with tamarind, fresh coriander and pomegranate (incredible fragrant, zesty flavour)…

Sweet corn with peppers and crunchy corn pieces… (Corn fritters are also on the menu.)

And the impressive chicharron – a kind of hot dog of slow-roasted pulled pork, smoked chillio and citrussy salsa criollo in a brown brioche bun.

The chef also threw in some tasty miso shredded courgette ceviche…

Then came the mains – it was a good thing we were hungry. I had the most brunch-like dish (ie it involved an egg), which was called Papa Seca. It was a rich and creamy baked dish of Peruvian dried potatoes and butternut squash with a lovely soft egg in the middle.

My friend went for the Arroz Nikkei, which was essentially a lime-infused risotto topped with a beautiful piece of Chilean sea bass hiding under a handful of greens… The fish got top marks.

Dessert was presented on a plate to share – it was a trio of chocolate brownie, frozen chicha morada with rhubarb, sorbet and summer berries, and a lovely soft passion fruit and coconut bavarois (similar to a mousse).

Throughout most of the meal, a lively jazz band was playing, and although we were well placed to watch them, they were so loud it made it difficult to talk. The free-flowing champagne and the lively atmosphere, nevertheless, made it a very enjoyable experience. The food was vibrant and positively zapped with flavour and moreish textures, and the service from the staff was charming.

VERDICT Coya is a relaxed, upmarket Mayfair restaurant that excels in serving up exotic, tantalizing Peruvian cuisine in a rainbow of colours and surprising flavours. It’s a sophisticated yet fun place for after-work affairs and weekend liaisons – just be warned it can get quite noisy if there is live music. Overall, highly recommended.

The brunch is very good value, especially if you enjoy champagne, but starting to eat at 12pm might be a little late for some people. That said, I arrived at 1.30pm and lingered until 4pm.

OPENING HOURS Open daily 12pm-2.45pm for lunch and Sunday brunch, Sun-Wed 6pm-10.45pm and Thurs-Sat until 11pm for dinner. The pisco bar is open 12pm to 1am daily.

PRICES Brunch £36 – with unlimited wine £47 or champagne £55.

CONTACT 118 Piccadilly, Mayfair; tel +44 (0)20 7042 7118;

Jenny Southan

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