At least five Latin American restaurants will launch in the capital in the coming 12 months, including Peruvian restaurant Ceviche in Soho, Brazilian concept Cabana, Villa Rose, from Roka and Zuma owner Arjun Waney, and the aptly named Lima, a new venture from Virgilio Martinez, chef-patron at Central restaurant in Lima, Peru.
Ceviche, which is owned by DJ-turned-restaurateur Martin Morales and named after the traditional Peruvian dish of raw fish marinated in citrus juice, is to open at the beginning of March.
The 80-cover restaurant will not only be the first specialist ceviche bar in the UK, according to Morales, but it will also feature a pisco bar, serving Peru’s national drink.
Morales’s project to bring Peruvian cuisine to the UK was conceived last year, and he initially set up a Twitter account to gauge people’s interest in the idea. “We asked people ‘Do you care about Peruvian cuisine?’ and the response was fantastic,” he said.
Even chef René Redzepi got in touch by email, saying ceviche was one of the best foods of the world and urging Morales to open a restaurant.
The new-found popularity of Peruvian food in the UK is down to growing momentum for the country’s cuisine on an international scale, according to Morales.
“There are Peruvian restaurants in San Francisco, New York and Madrid, which have become some of the best restaurants in these cities. Peru is a powerhouse in gastronomy – it has more chef schools than any other country in the world.”
A Peruvian restaurant – Astrid Y Gastón, owned by Gastón Acurio – also debuted on the S.Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list this year, with an entry at number 42.
Peruvian food has also been creating a buzz among chefs and foodie circles in the UK in the past few months. The cuisine has started to feature on menus from chefs such as Yotam Ottolenghi and Angela Hartnett and the Cookbook Café at London’s InterContinental Park Lane hotel recently held a ‘Flavours of Peru’ event at which Martinez cooked.
The inherently healthy nature of the cuisine is also appealing to the UK market, adds Morales. “Dishes such as ceviche are not dependent on fat but on the meat and marinade.”
Meanwhile Jamie Barber and David Ponte’s mid-market Brazilian concept, Cabana, debuts this month in the Central St Giles development, with a second site imminent in Westfield Stratford City.
Perhaps the clearest sign that Latin American food is set to take off in the UK, however, is the interest in the cuisine from restaurateur Arjun Waney. Waney, who has had huge success with Japanese restaurants Zuma and Roka, is set to open South American restaurant Villa Rose at 118 Piccadilly in April next year.
“There are really no Latin American restaurants here at the moment and there’s a lot of opportunity,” he said. “If you look at the food served at Nobu, a lot of it is Peruvian. Its New World sashimi is like a ceviche.”
Villa Rose will follow the sharing plate ethos of Waney’s other restaurants, with the food taking inspiration from Peru and Uruguay.