Walking into La Cocina Peruana is like walking into someone’s house. It’s so casual and relaxed and full of old friends wandering in and out of the “Peruvian Kitchen” and babbling noisily in Spanglish, it felt like we were caught in a Manu Chao vortex. Make that Manu Chow. Not a bad thing if you’re after homely fare with an authentic South American flavour.
The dining room is a lurid headache of burnt umber – there’s so much orange it feels a bit like eating inside a Twisties packet. Otherwise it’s a Peru’s-Peru of Aztec-print tablecloths and stuffed llamas.
The food is just as much a hotchpotch of cross-cultural delight as the atmosphere. For the best value, go for the mixed platters which are piled high with fried chorizo, sweet potato, deep-fried chicken and steak, with pickled onions and spiced mayonnaise on the side. The papa rellanas, which is like a beef and potato croquette, is too stodgy if you plan on leaving room for the chilli-tainted corn tamales. Which you should. This traditional dough made from cornmeal is stuffed with pork and wrapped in banana leaves. Delicious.
They’re not licensed so you’re stuck with a purple corn drink that tastes like grape Hubba Bubba, or an Inca Kola, which is more like 7Up than Coke.
If you ask nicely, they might knock you up a Pisco Sour – a cocktail made from a secret homebrew, egg white, lemon and bitters. They also sell Peruvian products like hot sauces, tinned beans and doughnut mix as well as dry goods such as quinoa, a grain that’s incredibly high in protein and amino acids.
While this is by no means a fine diner, it’s good value and fun. Vaya rápidamente, amigos.