I’ve always been intrigued by South America – its beauty, its culture, but most importantly, its enticing cuisine.
Having watched a fair few Rick Stein food programmes, I learned that a big part of Ecuadorian culture is their food, passed down for generations. I’ve never had any South American food other than the odd Mexican so was intrigued and excited to try more.El Inca Pleyebo brings a modern taste of Ecuadorian food to multi-cultural London and I couldn’t wait to try it.
El Inca Plebeyo is a short walk from Angel or Highbury and Islington stations, just one street from the hustle and bustle of the high street. Walking into the restaurant, you get a sense of calm and relaxation with Latin American music playing through the stereo and Ecuadorian artifacts displayed on the walls and tables.
El Inca Plebeyo make their own fermented cheese in-house (similar to feta cheese) and I couldn’t wait to try it.
This cosy little restaurant is owned by Head Chef Pacheco. He previously worked in London’s first fine dining Peruvian restaurant Coya with experience from The Mayfair Arts Club, Savoy Grill and maze.
We are greeted by the welcoming Maria who takes us through the menu explaining what each dish contains and how popular it is in each region. After deciding what to eat, we sat down with some cold drinks on this summer day.
I went for a refreshing mint mojito that has lashings of fresh mint, fresh lime, rum and sugar topped up with soda water. It was perfectly balanced and refreshing. My husband went for Estrella Galicia beer which is one of the most popular beers in South America.
When our starters came along, it smelt so fresh and delicate – we couldn’t wait to get stuck in. To go with the Ecuadorian theme, we started with traditional Ecuadorian ceviche. Traditional ceviche is different from what I have had previously where it was thin slices of fish marinated in a chilli and lemon dressing. This ceviche had chunks of cured sea bass with lime juice, tamarillo and chilli. It was so light and refreshing – completely different from what I thought it would taste like. The sea bass was fresh and the acidity from the fresh tomato sauce and onions brought the dish together.
On top of the ceviche, was thinly sliced onions and chunky tomato pieces which brought another freshness and texture to the dish. It was beautiful and worked really well with our drinks.
I’m a huge lover of plantain and was excited to see this dish being place in front of me. To scoop up the chunky sea bass and sauce, this plantain was deep fried, mashed and then deep fried again, giving it a crispy exterior and soft interior. It worked really well with the ceviche and my husband and I had a little rock, paper, scissors to see who would get the last one! I sadly didn’t win but he did share half with me!
To accompany our main meals, we went for more plantain, but this time it was ripe plantains with El Inca Plebeyo’s homemade cheese – a traditional dish (Plátanos con queso). The plantain was fresh and had a caramel flavour to it. The cheese, though I was a little sceptical about these flavours mixing, was delicious and worked really well. The thinly sliced onions gave the dish a crispy and strong texture. It was delicious.
My husband went straight in for the grilled chicken (Polito a la Brasa) which was a succulent baby chicken marinated in yellow chilli (an Ecuadorian classic) served with grilled sweet potato and chimichurri sauce. The marinade was delicious and the yellow chilli gave the dish a beautiful balance of sweet and hot.
Going for an Andes dish, I went for the healthy grilled sea bass with lentils and rice. The fish was cooked to perfection – crispy skin and flaky moist flesh. The lentils were cooked for around 2-3 hours on the stove which really gave it a nice deep flavour that worked well with the whole dish and the rice was cooked al dente which was perfect.
To try some Latin American desserts, Maria brought us one of the traditional desserts in Ecuador – caramelised figs with their homemade cheese. The figs were soft, sweet and bursting with flavour. The cheese was tangy and balanced this sweet dessert.
Head Chef Pacheco’s own take and creation on the traditional British rice pudding was his quinoa pudding which was a popular choice here at the restaurant.
The pudding had quinoa, cinnamon and coconut cream topped with caramelised sugar – making it a cross between a créme brulee and rice pudding. It was served with the most delicious ice cream I have ever had – sugar cane ice cream rolled in dark Ecuadorian dark chocolate. This was delicious and we were scraping the bottom of the dish before we knew it.
If you haven’t tried Ecuadorian food then I urge you to try out El Inca Plebeyo. The restaurant dishes are all cooked fresh and bring you a taste of South America. It isn’t like anything you have tasted before and if you get there by 8pm you can make the most of the happy hour deals and try out some exotic cocktails!
El Inca Plebeyo
162 Essex Road, London, N1 8LY