Andina

Address:  1 Redchurch St, London, E2 7DJ
Bookings:  Walk in
Day:  Friday
Meal:  Dinner
Price: ££
Rating: 7/10

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 20.12.27If there’s one group of people in the world who like raw fish and lime juice more than my partner in crime, then it’s probably the Peruvians. And that’s saying something, because as mentioned previously, my partner in culinary crime eats more raw fish than a hungry basking shark, and gobbles more limes than a sailor warding off scurvy. But the Peruvians love it more than that. They even have a national holiday for ceviche, the 28th June, where they doss off work and eat the stuff.

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 20.12.09Certainly, it’s a dish worth celebrating. I was reminded of that last week at Andina, in Shoreditch, part of a small chain of informal little Peruvian restaurants scattered around London. We kicked off the night with a plate of sea bass ceviche, a princely fish marinated in lime juice, served with avocado, sweet potato, goldenberry, red onion, chilli and tiger’s milk. The dish was searingly, bitingly, wincingly tasty, sharp enough to cut diamond, the lime sending lightning bolts of flavour down the tongue. The sea bass itself was plump and fresh, soft as a pillow.

A side dish of some pitch black yawar croquettes had no flavour of their own, but it was almost a relief to have some palate cleansers after the culinary blitz of the ceviche.

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 20.12.17Next to slide across our table was a Peruvian corn soufflé, topped with a loin of smoked bacon, an egg and some hollandaise sauce. Peruvian corn bread is wonderfully starchy, absorbent, somehow managing to be both hearty and light at the same time.

As we ate, I was fascinated by the couple next to us, who sat in complete silence for minutes at a time, looking at each other vacantly, before occasionally making small snippets of conversation which were so awesomely boring that they could have auditioned for Love Island, and probably won the entire programme if they hadn’t been overweight. The silent dinner remains one of life’s great mysteries to me, and yet all over the world they occur.

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 20.11.54The centre piece of the meal was a braised duck leg, in a butter bean and pumpkin puree. This I found a little disappointing, the meat a little dry, somewhat worn down. It brought to mind a stringy, lanky duck, with a weary set of legs that waddled it many miles. It didn’t have the strength of flavour of the best duck. Perhaps it was a dyed chicken leg.

We finished with a chocolate mousse, topped with a dollop of elder berry and a smothering of pink rice krispies. Berries and chocolate are probably the ultimate dessert combination, and I wolfed this down, spoonful by spoonful, good to the very last.

Screen Shot 2018-06-26 at 20.12.01I had the meal with half a dozen pisco sours, and so probably drank the equivalent of 3 eggs with my meal. Each glass was a sharp, acidic complement to the food, and left me walking unsteadily in the gorgeous summer night.

Andina is fine, fresh and casual, part of a little storm of Peruvian restaurants capturing the hearts of London diners. Give it a try. In fact, why not embrace a little bit of the Peruvian spirit, take this Thursday off (the 28th, National Ceviche Day), grab a sea bass, throw it in some lime juice, and then try not to wince whilst watching England slaughter Belgium in the World Cup that evening.

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Red Rooster

Address: 45 Curtain Rd, London EC2A 3PT
Bookings: booked with Open table
Day: Tuesday
Meal: dinner
Price: £££ (alcohol included)
Rating: 5/10

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Red Rooster top bar

American restaurants aren’t known for delicate fine dining, often making up in size and big flavours what they lack in finesse. Newly opened ‘Southern soul’ restaurant Red Rooster may have taken this too far.

Having heard a fair amount of hype about the place, and since it sits only a stone’s throw away from our office, we thought it high time to put in a visit. Downstairs, the restaurant space is enormous, filled with odds and ends to reinforce the old-style southern theme, from shop mannequins and plaid chairs to photos of 1950s jazz musicians which smothered the walls.

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Syrup Corn Bread

The staff were friendly, kitted out in a medley of baseball caps, plaid shirts and denim jackets with large red roosters stitched into the back of them, and the atmosphere generally a cheerful and laid back one. We were seated right next to the stage, where live bands perform six nights a week, belting out jazz numbers and the occasional hip-hop song. Mercifully, however, we left the restaurant just as the live act was beginning to warm up, and so weren’t subjected to a 21st century Shoreditch hipster’s reinterpretation of Duke Ellington and Miles Davis.

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Ol Man Shrimp N’Grits (top) Ceviche (bottom)

But onto the food itself. I ordered up ‘Ol Man Shrimp N’ Grits’ as a starter, a stodgy, gruel like substance that tasted like lightly salted porridge, with a single, lonely prawn sat on top of it. I had never actually heard of grits before, but a quick Google search defined it as “food made from corn that is ground into a coarse meal and then boiled.” It was about as unappetising as that sounds.

Corn in general, is a big theme in the restaurant, in fact it was almost impossible to find anything on the menu that didn’t contain a healthy dose of it; I ate my grits with a side of cornbread and honey, a dish that management the extraordinary feat of being both dry and oily at the same time.

My partner in culinary crime ordered up a Ceviche Del Barrio to start with, which was a little better, sharp and zesty, with a large slab of tuna in the middle of a riot of watermelon and tomatoes.

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Obama’s short ribs

Already dangerously full by the time our starters were cleared, we decided to split ‘Obama’s short ribs’ for a main, named because the restaurant’s chef has made the dish for Barack Obama. These ribs were full and flavoursome, but large enough to feed a small army on a completion of a long march, and completely impossible for two normal humans to get through.

For thirty full minutes we tackled the ribs, fighting our way through them, mouthful by mouthful, before finally admitting defeat, less than half of the dish eaten. Even though these ribs were enjoyable, they were incredibly stodgy, and gelatinous with fat. And we didn’t even dare attempt the enormous, wobbling blob of bone marrow that sat soaked in juice on the side.

I would only recommend this restaurant to those who are experienced lovers of American soul food, and even then, don’t visit if you have any evening plans that go beyond lying groaning on the sofa at home in a food coma for several hours afterwards.