Kingly St, Carnaby, London W1B 5PW, UK senor-ceviche.com
Mexican food may get the headlines, but Nick finds that for him this easy-going Peruvian restaurant has far more flavours.
Tucked away off Carnaby Street Kingly Court seems to inhabit a different world to the street it neighbours. Brighter, more modern but at the same time having a retro warehouse vibe to it. And it has a roof, you can’t downplay the importance of a roof. Especially when it rains.
Some visitors may not go upstairs though and so would miss out on Peruvian restaurant Senor Ceviche, which would be a shame.
Colourful and cheerful on the outside, like a 70’s community nursery painted by a social worker, it has just the right amount of lowered lights and colours on the inside. There’s a welcoming canteen-style feel and staff are positive and cheerful without getting on your nerves.
The open kitchen sends out good aromas; I don’t like restaurants where I can’t smell the food cooking (fine dining apart, of course), I want my appetite awakened the moment I go in.
It’s a small-plate-sharing-kinda-place, none of your pre-millennial starters and mains here. Recommended is to choose three dishes per person, which seems about right for quantity when combined with some side dishes. And, of course, it all comes out rather randomly, as tends to usually be the case.
I had to try the Coliflor Quemado’burnt cauliflower with aji limo and piquillo pepper salsa and sesame soured cream’, just to see what it turned out like. I’d have named it’charred cauliflower’ if I was writing the menu, because burnt suggests a terrible mistake – as in’chef’s burnt the bloody cauliflower again!’.
It was rather good, the charring accentuating this usually unloved vegetable’s flavour and the spicy sauce was just right. It really is time we saw more cauliflower on menus if this is what they can blossom into when not smothered in cheese sauce.
Personally I think fried squid never gets better than when served in Vietnamese restaurants, but this was great too. Certainly when it came to sharing nicely we fought it over it rather fiercely. The mayo was luscious enough to eat with a spoon, the jalapeno fiery and tart.
Ceviche is of course a must-have, or why bother going? We didn’t share ours, it was a bit too tricky, but we did sample a bite of each others.
S had The Spaniard – sea bass and king prawn ceviche with tomato and aji rocotto tiger’s milk, red onion, coriander, plantain and chorizo. He liked the flavours but had a bit of a problem with the chili heat.
I took a spoonful and understood; it was pretty fiery even for an old vindaloo veteran like me. The heat could usefully be turned down a bit, because the tastes were too good to mask.
No such problem with their signature dish Senor Ceviche – Sea bass and octopus ceviche with aji amarillo tiger’s milk, sweet potato puree, avocado, coriander, red onion and crispy baby squid. It was light and breezy.
The sea bass and the octopus were well’cooked’ by those acids and firm to the bite. The onion and sweet potato puree both acted as fine foils to that citric boldness, which never became assertive enough to make you shudder.
A fresh-tasting dish, which put me in mind of the best kind of Thai salad, although of course very differently spiced.
And where’s the meat? Well Pachamanca Pork Ribs with sticky yakiniku sauce with roasted peanuts came to the table looking great. I do like ribs, but have pretty much had enough of American style ones. Too one-note, too much smoke and too much needless backstory about chef’s tattoo addiction.
Not a problem here, the meat tearing off the bone easily and well coated with that unusual sauce, a Japanese sauce in fact of soy, sugar, shichimi, garlic, ginger and sesame seeds. Plenty of flavour in all that and we really liked the crunch of those roasted nuts against the soft meat.
And as for Anticucho De Cordero – grilled lamb and turnip skewers cumin and aji panca – who knew turnip could be so tasty? I always have a mental picture of Baldrick’s giant turnip in Blackadder, but these mini ones were sweet and slightly peppery. Excellent with lamb that had a hoarse breath of cumin over it while the aji panca was not too hot and itself slightly aromatic. Another winner dish.
Healthier was a salad of Nikkei Greens Baby spinach, green beans and sugar snaps with pecans, botija olives, raisins and all glugged over with Nikkei dressing.
This was clean, sharp and sweet and I hope to eat a lot of it at the health farm that I eventually end up at, lifted in by helicopter like a stunned rhino.
S threw in the towel at this point but, ever the professional, I ordered dessert. Tareta De Queso, or cheesecake to you and me. A passion fruit and white chocolate cheesecake with chicha morada syrup to be precise, and while it was heavy going it had a proper cheesy tang and was not sugary gloop as it so often can be.
Well Senor Ceviche, you did pretty bueno. Overall, we left lunch in a lively, happy state and not just because of those piscos. Reliable well-priced food from a compact menu that is easy to order from and has enough choice to draw you back for repeat visits, especially when you have a crowd to satisfy.