I did some of the touristy things on my trip to London. I looked up at the London Eye, Europe’s tallest ferris wheel, and as my hands started to sweat with acrophobia, thought, “Nah, I’m good.” I went to the British Museum, where I saw many a mummy. Big mummies, small mummies, old mummies, not-so-old mummies. I bought a hat at the oldest hat shop in the world, and then spent the remainder of the afternoon pinning it onto my head with both hands while the wind tried to steal it from me.
But restaurants are my primary tourist adventure, and let me tell you, London has got game. Boston’s food scene is great, but “international” cities, like New York City and Chicago and London, play on a different level.
I decided to hit up some restaurants on the Michelin list. I collect Michelin stars, but because Michelin doesn’t rate Boston, I rarely get the opportunity to up my tally.
The Michelin list tends to favor French cuisine first, followed by mostly European and American cuisines. Cuisines from the rest of the world definitely make the list, but with comparatively low frequency. I’ve tried some Peruvian food in the past couple years, including great meals at Quenas in Harrison, New York, and Antara in Medfield, Massachusetts. I was psyched to see a Peruvian restaurant on the Michelin list, named after the Peruvian capital.
So, lunch for two at Lima on Rathbone Place in the Fitzrovia neighborhood of London.
Let’s talk about plating and the whole idea of “the eye eats first.” Artful plating tends to be one of the distinguishing factors of Michelin restaurants. In the case of my starter, octopus olivio, check out how the kitchen added little dollops of purple sauce into some of the tiny suction cups on the octopus tentacle. Attention to detail!
Plating only goes so far if the taste doesn’t match the scene, but thankfully, the octopus at Lima tasted as good as it looked. This can be tricky because octopus doesn’t have an especially strong flavor or texture to my palate. In this case, it was a little briny, a little chewy, playing off the salty olive tapenade and sweet purple corn nicely.
My dining partner wasn’t bowled over with his starter, the tiradito. The traditional Peruvian dish consists of thinly raw fish served with a spicy citrus sauce, often with kernels of boiled corn and sweet potato. He likes his tiradito to have a citrus flavor strong enough to take the roof off your mouth, and while the “tiger milk” was definitely present in his appetizer—I tasted it—the overall flavor palate was more complex than he had hoped.
But he did enjoy his lamb entree, cooked to juicy perfection. I opted for the buttery seared cod, which was also cooked to perfection. I found it to be even better than the octopus. I don’t usually see fruit added as an accompaniment for white fish, but I did love the tangy camucamu seeds, which tasted much like pleasantly acidic pomegranate seeds to me.
The cusco corn cake is a side dish you shouldn’t miss. I love cornbread—I had eaten some amazing take-no-prisoners cornbread drowned in melted butter at The Lockhart the previous day—but this wasn’t U.S. Southern-style cornbread. The corn cake was blithely sweet, made from whole kernels of ripe sweetcorn rather than cornmeal, and moist to the point of almost being wet. It was divine.
I typically ask the waitstaff what is the most popular dessert, because the finale is no time to screw around. You have one shot to get it right. (Or in my case, occasionally two or three, depending on just how much self-control I’m going to exhibit, but that’s besides the point.)
Our waitress recommended the chocolate avocado mousse as Lima’s the most popular dessert, and I’m glad she did. Within a sea of 25+ Michelin-starred dishes during my London restaurant excursions, this one stood out. My dining partner tried to justify digging into my dollop of chocolate mousse by saying that he felt so-so about his Peruvian alfajores dessert, but I elbowed him out of the way.
I’ve had avocado soup and avocado smoothies, but the mousse was lighter, sweeter, dreamy. The chocolate mousse and exterior shell balanced the flavor palate with cacao-driven sharpness. Talk about ending your meal on a high note!
Lima was a last-minute addition to my culinary itinerary and I am so glad that I didn’t miss it. If you get the chance to visit, I’m sure you’ll feel the same way. I don’t just wish that there were more good Peruvian restaurants in Boston; I wish Lima was in Boston.
INFORMATION as of January 2016
Address & Phone
31 Rathbone Place
London, W1T 1JH
+44 20 3002 2640