From South America to London: these are the best restaurants to stuff your faces with Pisco and plantain.
We’ve picked out the best food joints across London to represent Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, Argentina and Venezuela and we think you should go to them.
1. Peru — Andina
On a corner of Shoreditch High Street, mere steps away from the Overground, you’ll find this lovely little Peruvian joint. With a menu of beautifully colourful dishes, and a wide variation of hot and cold plates, you’ll be taken on a fabulous journey of texture and taste. We started off with some crispy plantain crisps and a couple of Ceviches; a dish of fresh raw fish cured in citrusy juices. This was followed by some warm “street food” plates, including Chancho con mani (crispy pork belly, coriander and choclo corn pureé, peanut amarillo chilli sauce) and Pulpo Chancón (grilled octopus, lúcuma, butterbeans, chancaca and limo honey sauce, tomato and red onions). Our favourite dish, however, was the Seco de Cachete — panca chilli braised pork cheek with cassava root mash and tamarillo fruit criolla. An absolute dream!
Dessert was a real struggle to squeeze in but after seeing plates of pudding being delivered to neighbouring tables, we just couldn’t resist. Amongst the desserts, you would be wrong to choose anything other than the Picarones Doughnuts — pumpkin doughnuts with purple maize syrup and chocolate fudge. And yes, they taste just as good as they sound (and look).
We did alright for drinks too, starting our evening with a Pisco Sour and ending it with a grimace-inducing shot (note: Pisco is always nicer if you add stuff to it). We also had a couple of cocktails in between; my favourite being the Tamaya, a poncy sounding mix of lychee-infused 1615 quebranta pisco, Colombian gin, ginger and lemongrass cordial, guanábana, aronia juice.
You can find Andina at 1 Redchurch St, Shoreditch, E2 7DJ. (See also: the best restaurants in Shoreditch.)
2. Brazil — Tia Maria
Our evening at Tia Maria was an absolute joy from start to finish. We began with a couple of Caipirinhas and chose to trust our waiter, César, to decide what we’d be eating. He did not disappoint. Before our mains, we had Garlic Prawns and Bone in Fried Chicken Chunks which, although not glamorously named, tasted absolutely great. To follow we shared a traditional Brazilian dish called Feijoada Completa (a meaty stew of beans, beef, pork), and some Roasted Beef Ribs, which were perfectly tender and arguably the highlight of the meal.
We continued with more cocktails — moving from Mojitos to Batidas — and then we scoffed our faces with sweet tapioca wraps stuffed with a delicious dulce de leche, and a super-healthy-but-super-tasty açaí bowl (which is pronounced a-sigh-ee, by the way).
After we’d eaten, we continued our evening with some traditional live music and dancing. Spirits were high and the restaurant/bar was packed by this point. We ended the evening with a Cachaça shot and all we could talk about in the Uber home was how good the food was. Honestly, if you’re ever in Vauxhall (and even if you’re not) head to Tia Maria for some fantastic food and a bit of a frolic.
You can find Tia Maria at 126 South Lambeth Road, SW8 1RB.
3. Ecuador — El Inca Plebeyo
In true South American style, we started our meal with a Pisco Sour and some Ceviches and Tiraditos. We shared some Scallops in a yellow chilli and lime marinade, a Ceviche Clásico (fresh seabass cured with lime juice and chilli) and a speciality Ceviche Eduatoriano, which was seabass cured with lime juice in a tamarillo and chilli tiger’s milk (which, despite our waitress claiming was from “the tiger they have round the back”, isn’t actually milk at all). The dishes were not only tasty, but also very pretty to look at. Once we’d finished–or thought we’d finished–we were shown the traditional way to finish off the sauce from the ceviches — we added it to a shot of Pisco and, er, downed it in one (we were told it would grow on us after a few tries, though we’re not hugely convinced).
Afterwards, we tried a selection of main plates, including Panza de Cerdo (pork belly cooked “reeeealllly slowly” served with sweet potato purée and a tomato salad), Polito a la Brasa (corn fed baby chicken marinated in yellow chilli with sweet potato and chimichurri sauce), and Encocado de Pescado (a broth of steamed halibut with coconut, rice and broccoli). The fish broth (pictured below on the left) was our favourite of the three. This all came with a deliciously fruity carafe of wine and a bunch of acompañamientos, most notably the delicious Llapingachos (potato patties in a *very* spicy basil sauce).
Just as we thought we were going to burst, we “accidentally” found ourselves with two desserts on our hands… a Quinoa con Leche, which was essentially a rice pudding crossed with a crème brûlée, and a Chocolate Fondant Pudding with Chilli, which wasn’t technically on the menu yet but will no doubt be a sell-out when it is.
The staff were wonderful, the food was an absolute credit to them, and we demand that you all go and try it out for yourselves. Secret London will certainly be back!
You can find El Inca Plebeyo at 162 Essex Road, N1 8LY.
4. Argentina — Moo Cantina
Their name is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but their steak is dreamy. You really can’t go wrong with the meat at Moo (unless you’re the type who asks for it well-done). However, despite their excellent steaks, there is more to the menu than flanks, ribeyes and sirloins. Try a Lomito Porteño (a warm steak sandwich with roasted peppers, rocket and provolone cheese) or an Argentinian Empanada (a traditional stuffed pastry), for example.
Accompanying the food is a great selection of Argentinian wines and cocktails. The interior is groovy, the meat is mighty, and you can get 20% off your steak on Tuesdays. Winner winner, beefy dinner.
You can find Moo in various locations across London, including Brick Lane, Pimlico and Middlesex Street.
5. Venezuela — Arepazo Bros
Arepazo Bros are the kings (and queens) of street food. Arepas are a traditional Venezuelan food made from corn flour, meaning they are 100% gluten free (that’s right foodies, prick those ears up). In Venezuela, they’re eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner — and if you were to walk into an Arepa place over there you’d probably find over 40 different ingredients to stuff them with.
At their stall in Camden, you’ll find 4 different options: the Pabellon, which is filled with shredded beef, melted cheese, black beans, plantain, avocado and pico de gallo; La Cartelua, which is the same as the Pabellon except with chicken rather than beef; the Arepazo Bro, which is a mixture of the two; or the Domino, which is for the veggies. You can also choose to add Plantain Fries, served with cheese, black beans, guacamole and pico de gallo. One thing we will say; don’t expect them to be easy to eat. Grab some napkins because you will make a mess.
You’ll find Arepazo Bros at KERB Street Food Market in Camden.
? by Andina