The background: Pachamama is a Peruvian restaurant in Marylebone that opened at the end of 2014. Its chef, Adam Rawson, worked at White Rabbit in Dalston before this new venture, and hired a Peruvian sous-chef earlier this year to make sure his cuisine was hitting the mark. The restaurant’s name means ‘goddess of the earth’ in Quechua, and the focus of Pachamama is certainly on celebrating nature’s bounty, with the very best ingredients, as local as possible, made to taste their best. Pachamama has a fun, lively atmosphere – helped by its enticing list of delicious pisco cocktails, another speciality – and, despite its location in central London, feels like a local’s place: not ridiculously expensive (unlike some Peruvian restaurants) and tucked away enough to feel like it’s there for those who know about it, not stumble across it.
The space: A cozy underground spot on Marylebone High Street that’s buzzy without ever being loud, with lights low enough to give a romantic, uninhibited vibe, but light enough to see the delicious plates of food. It’s an unusually shaped restaurant but, far from being a problem, this actually makes it a more versatile space – with larger, semi-private areas perfect for work events, and more intimate tables for dates or meals with friends.
The bar: Pisco is going to be the main ingredient that keeps people coming back to drink at Pachamama, and it’s something they take very seriously. The bar infuses its own version of the spirit with ingredients such as pink peppercorns – in the Rosa del Inca, which is mixed with vermouth, Campari, orange bitters and coffee beans in a twisted and delicious variation of a negroni – or beetroot – in the Lady of Cao, with chilli sauce, lime and tomato juice, a delightfully South American Bloody Mary. There’s a long list of impressive cocktails made without pisco, too, including several really indulgent digestifs, and a short but well-curated wine list with some excellent South American bottles.
What to order: Pachamama’s menu is meant to be shared, so forget starters and mains – just order away from the Sea, Land and Soil sections, add some snacks and, if you’re still hungry (or greedy) after those are gone, order a second round. If you’re in a group of more than three, you might want to choose a couple of one dish so you can all have a full forkful or two. Order at least three dishes per person.
Don’t neglect to order a few of the ceviche and Sea dishes – especially those with tiger’s milk, the key marinade of lime juice, aji chilli, garlic and onion in which the fish is ‘cooked’. The duck on rice will probably be recommended by your server – and for good reason, it’s delicious – and the fried aubergine with smoked yogurt and pecans is another one not to miss. The rest of the menu will vary as the seasons change – currently, the Peruvian asparagus with saffron yolk and peanuts, and the warm quinoa with garden peas and summer truffle are completely irresistible – but look out for the lamb belly and any pork dishes, which, in our experience, are pretty special.
Finish with: If you have room for dessert, then don’t miss the torta de chocolate with quinoa ice cream. Here, the ice cream is the main event: creamy but with a toasted flavour, a great accompaniment to the rich chocolate cake. The aji truffles are also worth trying – spicy and moreish, and best enjoyed with a coffee or digestif.
The bill: Around £100 for two people, with cocktails and wine.
In summary: Far from being a South American bandwagoner, Pachamama has taken the current enthusiasm for Peruvian and has created something wonderful – delicious, fun and original.
Pachamama, 18 Thayer Street, London W1U 3JY; 020 7935 9393; pachamamalondon.com