Just a short amble from High Street Kensington Station, amidst the well-heeled west London area, you’ll find a vibrant slice of Latin America in the form of Zuaya restaurant. Opened a little over four years ago by The Emerald Hospitality Group (who own Spanish restaurant El Norte and Italian spot Como Garden), the Latin American fusion restaurant draws flavour inspiration from Mexico, Brazil and Peru to create refined sharing dishes in a luxe setting.
Stretching across two floors, Zuaya reflects a tropical oasis, with colourful flowers and deep green foliage, presented with chic flair. The music transports you to sunnier climes in an instant, with upbeat Spanish tracks. A resident DJ takes to decks on select evenings, and it’s an internal battle with yourself not to get up for a touch of samba, salsa or cha cha between the tables.
The menu at Zuaya offers diners a tapas-style experience, with indulgent sharing plates of meat, veg, rice and more. You can pick multiple plates from the extensive menu, or opt for a set menu, compiled by the restaurant. The team pair complimentary flavours between dishes on these set menus, so if you’re overwhelmed by choice, a set menu is definitely the way to go.
We started simple for our meal, with padron peppers, sweet potato crisps, and guacamole. For simple dishes, the bursts of flavours when put together were astounding; everything worked in harmony. We got salt, we got sweet, we got zesty. Watch out for the spicy peppers between the milder ones though – it was like a padron pepper roulette! We also had a lamb taco and a tuna taco with our starters. The former employed tender meat, complimented by a fruity salsa, while the latter was refreshing and light. Both were bountiful in their filling.
One of Zuaya’s signature main dishes is Iberian pork, served on a bed of puréed butternut squash and mojo verde. Like the starters, the balance of flavours here is very impressive. Served with a side of quinoa pomegranate salad, the flavours are elevated even further; the sweetness of the butternut squash cuts the sharpness of the salad dressing, but celebrates the natural flavours of the pomegranate, all coming together with a bite of the pork. However, our favourite main dish was the wild rice, served with shiitake mushrooms and confit duck. It was hard to decipher between the rice and duck at some points, given the tenderness of the duck, and the resulting meal was sweet yet earthy – delicious.
Overall, the food here is very rich; you’re in for an indulgent meal with a visit to Zuaya. This extends to the creamy desserts, such as passionfruit crème brulée, and dulce de leche flan.
While Zuaya boasts a wide selection of drinks, their cocktail and wine lists are particularly impressive. Zuaya’s mixologists reimagine much-loved classics, like espresso martinis and negronis, alongside bespoke drinks with Latin-American flair, such as London to Lima (pisco, falernum, lime, agave syrup, egg white) and Black Forest (tequila, wild berries, apple, lychee and grenadine). We tried the latter, which was very enjoyable; the tartness of the tequila was masked by the fruitiness of the other ingredients.
If sweet cocktails aren’t your thing, the Zuaya wine cellar is packed full of stellar vintages from some of the finest wine regions in Latin America, including Mendoza in Argentina and Maipo Valley in Chile. There is specific focus on drier wines, rather than fruity options.