Peruvian cuisine is on the rise within the UK, noticeably through clusters of restaurants within London, and the use of Peruvian ingredients being heralded as ‘superfoods’ and cementing themselves as staple ingredients in pre-packaged lunches for those looking to eat green/lean/whatever the latest word for it is. Pisqu, however, offers Peruvian cuisine with more style than most.
The bright, airy restaurant offsets its white walls with dark wood and some sparse Peruvian fabrics that you could be forgiven for missing. Ultimately, other than the name, it’s not overly obvious from restaurant itself what the name of the game is here. Here lies the first mark of sophistication from Pisqu, doing things with some subtlety.
When I visited with a friend, the chefs brought us a range of dishes catered to our requirements (vegetarian and pescatarian). But first, things kicked off with the cocktails. Whilst my friend sipped a refreshingly cool watermelon cosmopolitan, I opted for the picante twist on the pisco sour.
Pisqu claims to having the best pisco sours in London. I can’t say I’ve tried every pisco sour in London, but from the ones I have, it takes the top spot. Atop of the deliciously sharp concoction floated the faultless, fluffy cloud of egg white.
On to the food. First to be showcased was the pulpo racion for my friend. Fresh, grilled octopus sat upon an Inca corn grain cake, bedded on a layer of smashed avocado.
Meanwhile, I tucked into the Andean Heritage salad: a foundation of quinoa, upon which yellow tomatoes, feta and sweet potato had been delicately arranged, with a scattering of baby leaves and coriander. Completing the plate were dots of tomato tree sauce, where olive oil and yellow chilli are blended with sour tomato to make a dazzlingly yellow accompaniment.
In both dishes, each ingredient had been relatively untampered with. Pisqu’s dish curation comes in the form of demonstrating how ingredients work together in their more natural (albeit cooked where necessary) form.
On to the main courses, here lay a surprise for me, as I was presented with a striking risotto verde. The head chef later explained his ambition was to bring Peruvian, Andean and Amazonian ingredients and combine them with European techniques.
The arborio rice has been replaced by inca or ‘giant’ corn. Typically, this is served with ceviche, but the dish had been adapted for my vegetarian diet with great success. The accompanying signature corn cake, along with tomato tree sauce and subtle chilli sauce, aji Amarillo, provided an array of different flavours and textures that one doesn’t usually associate with a risotto.
My friend was served an attractive plate, comprised of a fillet of seabass, accompanied with grilled Peruvian asparagus and potatoes. Whilst this dish boasted classic pairings of flavours, it was given a unique twist of being served with aji verde (a Peruvian green sauce).
Whilst we were both impressed, when it came to real heat we were left wanting. The head chef explained they had had to simmer down the spices to make it more palatable to the British. Whilst cursing the masses, we made a mental note to ask for more fire next time.
To finish our experience at Pisqu, we polished off some indulgent desserts. The first had a rich, Amazonian chocolate mousse infused with passion fruit as its centrepiece, accompanied by a matcha ice cream and a drizzle of olive oil.
Joining this was the Alfajores, a traditional Peruvian biscuit. Here, lustrous dulche de leche was sandwiched between 2 cute and crumbly biscuit disks. It’s a wonder how this little treat has yet to go mainstream, and even more of a wonder that even Pisqu’s desserts don’t sit too heavily on the stomach.
Further conversations with the head chef revealed that Pisqu has deliberately stepped away from trying to win accolades from restaurant reviewers, citing that the exacting standards (think the colour, shape etc of fruit & vegetables) lead to improper practices. Using food colouring to ensure a sweet potato is purple enough, when the growing season has meant it’s paler than wanted, is not something Pisqu want to engage in. Their focus is on delivering Peruvian cuisine that champions ingredients as nature intended. We left the restaurant feeling simultaneously vitalised and full, experiencing both of this seldom happens after 3 courses. The health-conscious of us have got the real deal here.
23 Rathbone Place, Fitzrovia, London, W1T 1HZ