I'm going to use this review about one restaurant to talk about the brilliance of another. The other week, by way of a very late, impromptu lunch I ended up in Michelin starred Peruvian restaurant Lima's new (it opened in July) outpost in Covent Garden: Lima Floral. Now, Lima in Fitzrovia amounts to one of the best meals I've ever had, and I'm a big fan of Peruvian food, so I was curious as to how the new joint would measure up.
As I said, I adore Peruvian food, and I'm going to spend a good few minutes here talking about the sheer brilliance of the original Lima where I fell in love with Peruvian food when I was there for a photography masterclass last Summer. I love the intimate yet casual atmosphere of the restaurant, and the way they present food to you that looks so beautiful, you really want to eat it in spite of having no idea what most the ingredients are is inspiring. Their Hand Dived Scallops are one of my death row dishes, and I recommend them to anyone who listens. I was dining with Wilkes, who also happened to be part of the group when I originally ate at Lima, and we both agreed that Lima Floral did not even hold a candle to the original. However, it was a perfectly lovely meal, and there is one thing I really need to recommend it to you for: the price.
Now, when I first dined at Lima it was an event, so thankfully I was not footing the bill. Doing a little maths with the menu and what I ate there, I'd estimate that a good meal at Lima with their small plates would come in at about £82 a head, conservatively. So, not really your everyday kind of joint. Based off what I ate the last time I was at another Peruvian joint I love in the city, Andina in Shoreditch you can eat there for about £43 a head. Andina is small plates too, so you need to order quite a few dishes. This brings me to the first thing I did really love about Lima Floral; the menu is arranged into Starters, Mains and Desserts, taking away the small plates format that does get rather pricey. The second thing I loved about Lima Floral, which is why I'm here recommending it to you is their set lunch menu.
They change it up every week or so so you can always get something different, and it is fantastic value if you want a good, solid introduction to Peruvian food. You can get any 2 courses for £17.50, or any 3 for £19.50, and each meal comes with a very good complimentary glass of house red or white. There is a choice of 3 different mains, and 2 different starters and desserts. Lima actually do a similar set menu, £20 for 2 courses with the wine, £23 for 3 which I ought to try at some stage, though it is missing some of my favourite dishes.
Now, shall we move onto the food on that set menu? We were greeted with the same, mealy and very unusual Peruvian breads you are at Lima, served with a deliciously tangy sour cream dipping sauce (it is also excellent for mopping up ceviche juices!) I've never really been a fan of Peruvian bread, but I chalk this up to personal preference rather than poor execution; nothing will ever beat the pinnacle of the classic baguette for me!
We both started with the Seabream Tiradito, Rocoto Pepper and Chia Seed dish. Beautifully presented, all the different flavours on the plate added something special and the fish was stunningly fresh (you'd think it would be a no brainer, but honestly it is worth commenting on). It does not hit you right in the face like a classic ceviche, but it still has a little of that tang. It also paired perfectly with my house white.
Both of the mains were fantastic. I sampled a good forkful of Wilkes' Potatoes from 4000 meters, Huancaina Sauce and Asparagus Peru dish (directly above) and it was rich, creamy, interesting and faultless. I did not get order envy, however, as I dug into my Paiche, Plantain Majado and Green Rocoto Leche de Tigre dish. Paiche is a mild, yet still complex white fish that were perfectly cooked; flakey and tender in the middle, and with a great bit of crunch and caramelisation on the outside. I'm entirely unsure what the rest of the dish was, but the base was flavourful and had a wonderful bite like a barley, and the green shoots that tasted a bit like pea shoots finished the dish off perfectly for me. Sometimes it makes the experience of lunch and dinner far more exciting if you're not actually familiar with what is on your plate.
We decided to share the two desserts so we could get the best of both worlds. My favourite was the Guava Mousse with Purple Corn Crumbs, and not just because it both looked very pretty, and very unusual. Guava Mousse (deliciously creamy with that hint of the fruit without being completely tropical or overpowering) is a rather familiar dish, in the whole scheme of the rest of the menu, but it is taken to a while new level with the bright purple corn crumbs, they're sweet, but not in a way that makes you feel like you've sprinkled your whole plate with sugar, and add an unusual sandy texture that really challenges the palate.
The Alfajores, Dulce de Leche and Elderberries Cream, while still lovely, were the most disappointing dish of the meal. The shortbread like biscuits filled with Dulce de Leche cream I think were, while delicious, a bit too thick to bite into without the whole thing crumbling into a bit of a mess, and they were too sweet by themselves; the way the simply delicious Elderberries Cream was served up on the plate by way of decoration was not really too practical as far as the eating of was concerned. However, there were not any actual flavour issues with this dish.
So, no, I did not adore Lima Floral as much as I totally fell in love with Lima, and I also think you can get a better Peruvian meal at Andina. However, Peruvian food is delicious, exciting, and usually rather expensive, so I would wholeheartedly recommend this brilliant set lunch menu as an amazing value introduction to the cuisine, or just a budget way of doing something a little different over a weekday lunch with friends if you happen to work in the Covent Garden area. In other news, I'd love to hear where your favourite Peruvian restaurant is in London?