Peruvian cuisine, which has made its more than welcome entrance into London over the past few years, is a hard one to pigeonhole. Taking its influences from enormously diverse sections of Latin America, and beyond, it is something of a given that most people would associate it with pisco sours, ceviche and, possibly, something involving dulce de leche. But it is not something, thank goodness, that has yet been homogenised into a mediocre high street chain, and so its intricacies and delights need a really good restaurant to appreciate in detail.
Enter the second restaurant in the Coya family, their City outpost in Angel Court. After the much-heralded delights of the original in Piccadilly, some might have feared that a certain lack of finesse might have crept in, with a faint fuzziness around the edges. Thankfully, this has not happened. Indeed, if anything, it’s even better than its predecessor, and the credit is due to a crack team of staff, who do a sterling job of demystifying dishes that a conservative palette might balk at.
In my case, horrendous though it might sound, that includes ceviche. Normally, the idea of it leaves me bored, but the sea bass and tuna dishes here are an altogether different breed, full of fire and vim, spiced at just the right level to tantalise, and beautifully presented. Nonetheless, those of an unrepentantly carnivorous bent (may I step forward, hand in the air?) will be thrilled by the other small dishes; chicken skewers are near-perfect, and slow-cooked pulled pork bao, served in miniature proportions at £6.50 for two, are worth every penny of the cost. You can also tuck into excellent guacamole, freshly made at your table, which takes the heat out of the spicier dishes. This is, officially, A Good Plan.
Your choice for main courses essentially revolves around whether you favour the pescetarian or meat-heavy options; there are vegetarian options, which involve potatoes, and are no doubt excellent, but you might be advised to go elsewhere. Otherwise, roll up your sleeves and feast on superlative pork back ribs, wonderful beef fillet in a moreish spicy sauce and some of the finest patatas bravas that you will ever have outside South America, washed down with a glass of fine Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon. None of this is refined; you will eat with your fingers at times, with gusto and relish. It is unlikely that you will have more plain and simple fun in most restaurants around the square mile.
Do desserts live up to what has come before? Perhaps not, but sometimes ending the meal with something sweet after an onslaught of savoury is the only realistic thing to do. So enjoy a coconut mousse (cleverly designed to look like small pieces of coconut), or an excellent chocolate fondant, complete with passion fruit ice cream made of our old friend the dulce de leche, and all will be well. Did an espresso martini – and a superb, Kahlua-heavy one at that – make an appearance? It would be ungentlemanly to divulge, but take my silence at face value.
A meal at Coya is splendid fun, and worth every penny of the (considerable, but far from outrageous) bill. What everyone involved in the operation brings to the table, other than groaning plates of food, is a lightness of touch, a real joy in making their guests enjoy themselves, and a sense of an event. And, like most of the people there tonight, I can’t wait to go back.
For more information about Coya Angel Court, as well as details of other locations, menus and their members club, visit www.coyarestaurant.com.