Park Plaza Riverbank, 18 Albert Embankment, Lambeth, London SE1 7TJ www.chinolatino.eu
Chino Latino is a modern Pan-Asian restaurant with a Latin cocktail bar, with several branches in the UK including London, Leeds and Nottingham. They are self-described ‘pioneers in fusion cuisine’, and offer a variety of Latino-inspired cocktails alongside Pan-Asian cooking with Latino flourishes from Peru.
To celebrate their unique combinations, Chino Latino London has recently launched its new Havana Rum Sundowner Nights – a mojito masterclass accompanied by live music and a selection of nibbles every Friday.
I’ve never been a huge fan of mojitos, but this masterclass changed my mind. Seated at the sleek bar in the middle of the restaurant, we had a one-to-one session with bar tender Pan. It was great fun learning how simple a mojito is to make, what goes in one and in which order.
The recipe? First add the sugar and lime juice and muddle. Then add the mint and muddle again, then the rum, then ice and muddle again. After all that muddling, almost fill your glass with ice, top with soda water and add a spring of mint for decoration. And, of course, always make sure you pop your straw into your mint so you get the fragrance as well as the taste.
As well as a classic mojito, we also got to try our hands at fruity ones – one strawberry and one passionfruit. Same method but add fruit with your first lot of mint. The best part – you get to have a bit of a competition to see who makes the best mojito. Oh, and of course you get to enjoy them both afterwards.
As part of our masterclass we tried the dim sum platter which included quite a good selection of different dishes, although you definitely needed one or two extras on the side.
The calamari was possibly my favourite of all – lightly battered, crisp and served with tomato, red onion, mint and a tamarind dressing that added sweetness to the whole thing without being overwhelming. The mint and tomato added freshness. It was a tasty little dish.
The sui mai wasn’t perfect. The flavours were all there – rich with foie gras and sticky teriyaki sauce. However, the skin of the dumpling was a bit on the thick side and ever so slightly chewy and dry, especially around the edges.
Dates wrapped in bacon were oddly comforting, a bit like pigs in blankets. And there was a pastry dish that I believe was meant to be a samosa but looked nothing like any samosa I’ve ever tried. It had a prawn filling in it that was a bit nondescript – similar to an orange fish paste.
In addition to the dim sum platter, the stuffed red chilli and soft shell crab was nice, if slightly confusing. I love soft shell crab and eat as much of it as I can and, generally speaking, you are served the whole crab.
This wasn’t the case and we seemed to be served quite large crab claws. Still, the crab meat was sweet, and the batter was crisp and light. The peppers were stuffed with a creamy cheese that I might not necessarily pair with something fried but again, perfectly tasty.
The cocktail menu is extensive. If after your mojitos you fancy a post-dinner tipple, the cocotini is a nice alternative to a classic espresso martini with Koko Kanu, Kahlua, coffee and chocolate bitters. Or, if you like something with a bit more bite, the chocolate and hazelnut old-fashioned made with home infused hazelnut and chocolate bourbon, Mozart black chocolate liqueur, chocolate bitters and vanilla syrup, is a good option.
The cocktails at Chino Latino were great. The masterclass was fun and engaging and I learnt a new skill. Considering it is based in a hotel, the entrance is stunning – escalators take you up through twinkly red lights into a sleek, modern, stylish bar-cum-restaurant.
And, I can certainly think of worst ways to spend a Friday evening than sipping cocktails, looking out of Chino Latino’s glass wall across the River Thames, and enjoying a bite or two of dim sum.