If you like Latin American food you’ve probably heard of Zuaya, an upscale restaurant serving larger than average tapas style dishes with good quality service.
The décor is equally Amazonian, set behind a heavy fabric curtain is a bit of a rainforest setting with plenty of jungle style plants and low lit lighting. It’s a two floor restaurant, with a larger sitting area on the lower ground floor as well as an outside space on the ground floor.
Zuaya was fully booked even on a Monday evening, with a few couples being turned away as I walked in. The menu is neat with a good selection of meat, fish and vegetable dishes.
I spotted way too many dishes that I was tempted by, a good thing our waitress was there to make recommendations and warn me of their generous portions. I still could not resist though and ended up ordering more than we both could eat.
As a result the two unfinished dishes came with us in a takeaway box and were very much enjoyed as brunch the nest day.
We started our evening with an amuse bouche, which was a tomato gazpacho soup, a cooling welcome on a hot evening. And two cocktails London to Lima – a Zuaya’s signature cocktail.
It was a little bit like a pisco sour with milder tones served with a graceful amaranth flower on the egg white froth. While my guest sipped his tequila and wild berries Black Forest from a little peculiar looking glass. It was Aztec meets Inca meets alien.
The gazpacho was followed by a classic guacamole with sweet potato crisps. Always a bullet proof dish, if not made with too much lime juice, which often tends to be the case but not with this one.
Shortly after, the dishes just started flying in. Croquette of the day was free range chicken, served on a natural wood plate drizzled with honey. It was as good as chicken croquettes go, creamy with a subtle chicken flavour and a crisp coating.
It was accompanied by padron peppers, with a good mix of mellow and spicy, and raw tuna tacos, which were surprisingly soft. The tacos were not crisp but rather more of a mini pancake blini style, which is definitely more convenient to fold and eat but we were not quite sure about the texture.
Then the main meat dishes arrived, they were probably one of our favourites this year. My guest got an incredibly tenderised grilled Iberian pork with butternut squash. I don’t normally eat pork, but the juicy slices with creamy butternut puree looked too good to resist.
It was melting in the mouth and confusingly did not even have that strong pork flavour. My dish – grilled octopus with baked sweet potato was equally good. The most tender octopus I’ve had in I cannot recall how long.
For a full flavour experience you do need to pick a bit of everything on the fork: the octopus, the sweet potato, the creamy sauce and the finely chopped spring onions.
It was amazing, we finished the plates but we were starting to get full. And we still had three type quinoa pomegranate salad and wild rice, shitake mushroom with confit duck to follow.
The duck salad came toped with a soft fried egg. The wild rice added a lovely bite to a delicate texture of the meat. It was too good to leave so it came with us in a take away box.
Quinoa salad was just as good, very refreshing with a zesty twist from the pomegranate and tomatoes.
We finished our fine dine with a very lightly flavoured dulce de leche flan topped with a pineapple fan, perhaps a pericón even? And passion fruit crème brulée, a good classic with a tropical twist to it.
Zuaya is an enticing spot worth visiting. Their dishes are both modern and creative incorporating many ingredients originating from Latin America including wild rice, quinoa, passionate fruit, amaranth, dulce de leche to name just a few. The wild rice duck and quinoa salad also gave me a few cooking tips on how to use these healthy grains.
35B Kensington High St, London W8 5EB