25 Sheldon Square Paddington, London, W2 6EY ayllu.co.uk/
Tucked away in Paddington Basin, Ayllu is offering a pleasing Peruvian twist on Japanese food
Coming out of Paddington station never used to be a particularly nice experience. The area was always rather seedy, run down and grubby. I used to live there in the late’80s, that’s how bad it was.
Today it’s still a bit unwelcoming until, that is, you loop around the back through the hospital and into Paddington Basin. Here you come across the basin of the Grand Union Canal, designed in 1801 as a major transport hub.
Today bright new buildings have sprung up canalside, many of them luxury apartments, and cheerful little barges are still moored here, brightening the atmosphere.
In one of the new buildings, bang on the canal, is a branch of Smiths Bar & Grill, and under that is Ayllu a Japanese/Peruvian fusion place.
As they share the building, Ayllu diners can at the moment use the canalside terrace of Smiths and so with the sun shining, that’s where we sit.
Tables are properly Covid-spaced, but not excessively, and so there’ s no sense of being marooned on little wobbly social islands. .
In fact, this lunchtime, most tables are busy and there’s a good atmosphere. And I wedge my table leg to stop the wobble.
|Ayllu is the name of an ancient Incan community, which is why dishes are small plates to share family style.
South America and Japanese food have history and the menu, while compact, reflects this symbiotic relationship with plenty of dishes that feature elements of both cuisines.
We order across the board, five dishes, which turn out to be just enough. As is the way with these things they all come to the table in no particular order, but we do have to un-socially distance a nearby empty table to press it into service as somewhere to land all the food.
Octopus A La Plancha with basil mash potato and chilli we attack first. It’s such a vibrant plate with the basil mash a lurid, but not unpleasant, green, that it demands to be tried.
The first thing I do is taste one of the chillis dotted about, I don’t like to be surprised by a killer chilli.In fact these are quite mild, I would have liked more heat to contrast with the smooth mild mash and its basil flavours.
The octopus is very good, buttery smooth, not at all rubbery, and with good charred flavours. We dunk the cephalopod and scoop up the mash greedily.
We have a plate of maki – Harumaki Yasai. I like maki a lot, little cubes of tasty. These have avocado and pico de galla inside, which I am not so sure about as the pico de galla is very much a Mexican flavour and it rather swamps the avocado and the rice. The wasabi and pickled ginger add punch.
Another maki, this time Urumaki Prawn which is more traditional, with its crisp prawn against avocado, tempura flakes and with a tare sauce that doesn’t dominate.
Again, very passable for the low price, although the rice had dried out slightly suggesting the maki had been prepared earlier and someone had been a bit stingy with the clingfilm.
A real cracker though is the Yellowtail Tiradito – Truffled tigers’ milk, shitake mushrooms and sweet potato. The fish is excellently fresh and the truffled milk (ok yes, it’s probably made with truffle oil) is delicious. The springy mushroom perfect with the slippery, thinly sliced fish. Tiny cubes of sweet potato are cute, but not very inspiring.
We save crispy chicken for last. The bird is indeed properly crispy and addictive, and the rice, again not perhaps cooked a la minute but still okay, is shot through with sharp yuzu juice and salinated with soy sauce. Some egg is scrambled in there as well.
Pretty filling too, we just have space for three Alfajores with Dulce De Leche – Peruvian shortbread with caramel filling that accompanies a good double expresso.
The prices are very reasonable here, and the light informality is welcome. Staff buzz about cheerfully and seem to enjoy serving the colourful food and we enjoyed eating it.
For those living in Maida Vale, or in the smart apartments, this is a welcome new restaurant and the staff of the hospital can enjoy it too.
I’d recommend getting on the canal path further north and making this place your reward for a healthy walk in a bit of London that is surprisingly a lot nicer than it once used to be.
. *25% off food,
Throughout July, there 25% food. Available on Monday – Sunday on tables of up to 4 people, must be pre-booked and all drinks are to be paid for separately. Not available in conjunction with any other offer. Please note, no sushi served between 3pm Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 5pm.