The legendary COYA Mayfair first showed London in 2012 how dynamic Peruvian food really is and quickly became the definitive Peruvian restaurant. COYA is a blessing of Spanish, Japanese, Chinese and African influences mingled with ingredients from one of the most bio-diverse countries on earth.
We visited COYA Angel Court in the heart of the city of London to discover more about this intriguing cuisine. On a Monday evening there was a buzz, not just due to their “Sommelier Monday” offer where every bottle of wine (yes, EVERY bottle) is 50% off. The atmosphere is elegant with colourful Incan artifacts and open kitchens all around.
Any trip to COYA must involve the magical national drink of Peru, pisco. This under rated liquid made of grape must is tequila’s better cousin and takes around 12 kilos of grapes to make just one bottle of pisco. A Pisco Sour is the ultimate signature drink at COYA, combining pisco (a 1615 Quebranta), lime, pasteurised egg white and sugar. Imagine the smoothness of pisco married with creaminess of egg white and a touch of sugar and citrus shaken with ice. Indulge and try a Pisco Royale, topped with pink champagne.
As well as pisco, there are also bespoke cocktails for Angel Court and COYA global signature libations. Something not seen on many cocktail lists are low alcohol cocktails that are great for lunch time and a wide range of alcohol free cocktails. We recommend the Chica Morada – Peruvian purple corn juice with lime and a little sugar.
The best way to explore Peruvian cooking is by ordering a couple of dishes from each section. Expert and passionate staff bring so much charm and will talk you through the menu with amiable ease. To tantalise, a guacamole was made table side, accompanied with corn tortillas and shrimp crackers. I’m really glad my friend didn’t hear me say I don’t like ceviche when ordering and now understand why ceviche is the new sushi, with its freshness and simplicity. Our favourite was a kingfish ceviche in a milky truffle sauce, truffle oil and chives.
We all agreed on these two fish inspired plates as our stand out stars. Salmon tacos had such a crunchy texture and were filled to the brim with salmon, avocado and a hint of chilli. An explosion of textures and flavours. For main course, a fillet of Chilean seabass in an iron pot is mixed at the table with rice, lime and chilli. So simple yet so well executed.
Forget about truffle shavings and caviar if you can just for a moment, as even Peru’s side dishes with the simplest ingredients can make a massive impact. The humble potato is originally from Peru and locals use a phrase “Soy mas Peruano que la papa” (I am more Peruvian than the potato). Patatas bravas at Coya pay true homage to potatoes world-wide. Here, they are boiled then fried gently until crunchy, giving an all-important bite then drizzled with a colourful tomato and creamy cheese sauce. There are more than 55 varieties of corn in Peru so we opted for a trio of corn salad made with yellow corn cooked on a Josper grill along with crispy corn, white corn, sweet onions and lime. Who thought corn could be so deliciously sexy?!
We made space for desserts. Our highlights were the churros – with each hot sugar crusted churro coming in at 6 inches, infused with orange and lime. A satisfyingly hard to dunk dipping sauce combined milk chocolate and dulce de leche, a moreish amalgamation that required a dainty teaspoon to lap up the sweet nectar.
We headed to COYA Mayfair a few days later for a Pisco Sour (naturally). If you are around Mayfair, be sure to visit London’s only pisco library which was a lot more fun than our local Library. Meanwhile back in Angel Court, the famous COYA Saturday brunch rolls on. Every Saturday from 12:30pm-5pm, brunch commences with bottomless cocktails and canapés in the bar with DJs and musicians performing all afternoon. This is followed by a menu of COYA signature dishes served in the restaurant and more bottomless cocktails.
The COYA family has gone global and is spreading that unforgettable Latin American experience to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Monte Carlo, with a Paris branch opened recently – a testament to the passion and popularity of Peruvian hospitality.
To find out more about COYA, visit: www.coyarestaurant.com
By Mark Captain