Latin American food has gone through a real renaissance in London during the past five or so years, and Peruvian cuisine, especially, has experienced a spike in popularity. It’s now as easy to find ceviche as it is tacos. From Argentine steaks to Mexican street food to Brazilian stew, get a taste of Latin America at these restaurants.
Lima, from Central chef Virgilio Martinez, is one of the restaurants that helped kick-start the Peruvian food scene in London. It’s gone from strength to strength, winning a Michelin star and growing into a second site, Lima Floral in Covent Garden. The food is fresh, vibrant and modern and makes use of the rich native ingredients Peru has to offer—you won’t see Amazonian tree tomato and Andean cereals on many other menus in the city. Go for the Lima Hoy menu, which has a vegetarian counterpart, to fully experience Martinez’s vision.
After gaining a huge following as a street food trader, thanks to their exemplary tacos, Breddos made the move to permanent restaurant in Clerkenwell in 2016 (and has since opened a bigger sister site in Soho). The signature tacos, such as the baja fish and the egg with macadamia nut mole, haven’t gone anywhere, but they now also serve a range of exciting and original Mexican plates, including clam and sea urchin tostadas, sharing short rib birria and leche fritta.
Argentina is rightly famous for its steak, and as such many of London’s Argentine restaurants focus on meat. But Zoilo offers different insight. Beef is, of course, still on the menu, but it’s accompanied by the likes of mussels escabeche, catch of the day with coco beans and corn, and braised lamb belly with parsnips and aubergines. Whether you go for beef or not, you’ll have no trouble finding a wine to match from the exclusively Argentinean list, especially as many are available by the carafe.
Martin Morales is another big name Peruvian chef. In addition to owning Ceviche (with branches in Old Street and Soho) he’s also responsible for Andina (and its sister spot Casita Andina). This Shoreditch restaurant celebrates food from the Andean region with superfoods, such as quinoa, chia, maca and amaranth scattered across the menu and in smoothies and pressed juices. There’s plenty to indulge in, too, from pisco punch to chicharrón sandwiches and café con leche panna cottas.
Mexican food is definitely not in short supply in London, but there aren’t many restaurants that have made it feel high end. Ella Canta, which recently opened in the InterContinental Park Lane, has achieved that. Run by celebrated chef Martha Ortiz, Ella Canta has a real sense of theatricality about it. Not only does the restaurant itself look pretty spectacular, the food and drink—guacamole decorated with a whole gold grasshopper, duck with black mole and red rice, margaritas served in skull glasses—is just as stylish.
There are a handful of churrascaria chains in the capital, but for authentic home-style cooking, you have to seek out the smaller restaurants. Family-run Galpao, once voted Brazilian restaurant of the year, is one such place. You can tuck into feijoada, moqueca, rump steak with cassava, and chicken hearts with onions while sipping on caipirinhas or Brahma beers to a soundtrack of samba and bossa nova.
Señor Ceviche has followed that familiar route of pop-up to permanent restaurant (Kingly Court) to a second site (Charlotte Street) without losing any of its character. The original Carnaby branch really is a fun place to be, thanks to the bright décor inspired by downtown Lima, the excellent pisco sours and the bold, flavourful food. In addition to a dedicated ceviche section, Señor Ceviche also celebrates Peruvian BBQ with grilled beef heart, sticky pork ribs and Nikkei-style flat iron on the menu.
With El Pastor, the Hart brothers, also involved with Barrafina and Quo Vadis, proved they can do authentic Mexican just as well as anyone else in the city. On the edge of Borough Market, El Pastor is named after Mexico City’s popular al pastor taco, and their version, including the fresh tortillas made in-house, is very good, indeed. The stonebass tacos, Oaxacan cheese quesadillas and their innovative take on a Bounty bar for dessert are also not to be missed. The mezcal list is particularly impressive, and they shake up a mean margarita, if you fancy something less potent.
Although it’s named after the Patagonian wilderness, La Patagonia brings a slice of barrio life to Camden. Not only will you get a true taste of traditional Argentine food with empanadas, parrilladas, milanesas and wines from Mendoza, but be sure to also check out their monthly dance nights, too.