Places To Eat In London: Casita Andina
My friend Sherin and I love Peruvian food. My partner in crime for reviews of some of our London favourites such as Senor Ceviche and Ceviche, we met up for dinner after work to try out one of London’s latest (ish!) Peruvian opening, from the Ceviche and Andina (another love of mine) team: Casita Andina. Peruvian, but with a few world influences (Japanese, Middle Eastern, French) if is just the place for unique sharing plates in Soho, stepping into a different world the moment you enter, transported until it is time to leave again.
Shall we start with the cocktails? While our sweet and sour concoction was interesting, I was a little disappointed by the offering; nowhere near as a balanced selection (or as enjoyable flavours) at some of Casita’s sister joints, so perhaps here is one to order a bottle of wine to go with the pitch perfect food?
I was super jazzed about these avocado fritters. I’m usually quite suspicious of anything where avocado has been cooked, but served with a little chilli and anchovy salt, these were the perfect balance of creamy and punchy, with a wonderful texture. This was one of my favourites; you’ll be missing out if you don’t order some!
I enjoyed, and Sherin really loved the aubergine fries, served with pomegranate-chancaca honey and a herb cream. With the pomegranate and cream dip (and obviously the aubergine) while still being definitely Peruvian, it had a whisper of the Middle Eastern, too, in every other bite.
My favourite dish of the bunch, actually quite surprising as veggies are so often neglected was another with Peruvian roots, gussied up with a little bit of Middle Eastern gloss: a burnt salad of orange, lemon thyme yogurt, huacatay vinaigrette, pistachios, black quinoa and watercress. So many textures, temperatures and flavours all at once, this is what makes Peruvian food exciting. Each mouthful was a burst of something different, and if you only order one dish, this has to be it. One of the best dishes I’ve had in London in ages.
You can’t do Peruvian without doing ceviche, and we ordered two. Ever since I fell head over heels with the scallop ceviche at Lima London, I’ve ordered scallop ceviche whenever it appears on the menu, and this version, served in an upturned scallop shell was a curious one: served with the classic tigers milk, it has been given a porky, Asian twist with popcorn scratchings and pork dashi. I’m not sure if I could say I enjoyed this dish or not, if I were to catagorise it just on tastes I’d happily eat again and again, but I liked it in that it made me think. The food started off tasting like a Peruvian ceviche, then ended tasting like ramen. Curious.
We also went for more of a classic, their house ceviche which was utterly wonderful, and everything you’d want, fresh, punchy, full of different colours and textures, and visually striking.
A few more drinks before we turn to the warm plates, and one cocktail I did enjoy, and is one for you if you like a dry drink to kick off a meal before you move onto the wine: La Canica, made with pisco, kumquat liquor, and lavender and vanilla infused vermouth. It also claimed to have a ‘surprise’ in the bottom that I could see but not taste, but regardless, and lovely one to clear the palette ready for the meal.
I was really impressed by the braised smoked duck legs (so deliciously tender), served with a delicious butter bean and pumpkin puree and smoked shallots. Both very familiar, and very different. A bit more unusual was the hake, served with a slightly spicy pepper sauce, polenta-like corn and and what I think was very oddly textured fish roe. The familiar parts of this dish were mouthwatering, but I was not really sure about the rest.
Another dish you simply can’t miss at Casita Andina comes off of the dessert menu: a Peruvian Alto Sol chocolate ball (a lovely hard chocolate sphere filled with a decadent mousse), elderberry gelée, and a nice bit of slightly crackly (I think there was popping candy in there) crunch. So rich, delicious, and interesting.
I was also taken in by the words ‘purple panna cotta’. The purple maíz panna cotta, served with a pineapple chili criolla salsa and chicha morada syrup was not as fresh and punchy as I’d expect from something with pineapple in, but it was still delicious and interesting, a great menu item for those who are not really into the whole chocolate thing (I don’t know why not, but apparently you exist!)
While Casita Andina is not my favourite Peruvian in London, or my favourite of the Ceviche group, it is really worth a visit for some truly stand out dishes, and others that are really challenging in a way that is lacking on so many London menus.