In our quest to constantly try what’s new without having to leave the W1 postcodes, Peruvian cuisine has recently been given the London makeover. Lima, of Fitzrovia, remains the best if you are going for the food alone, and was awarded a Michelin star for it. But eating in London is rarely only about the food. So if it’s a pleasant demonstration of Peruvian cooking without the risk of the unfamiliar or too foreign, then Coya will be perfect for you. With outposts already in Miami and Dubai, it is a restaurant made for the international class- those who stay in the Grand Park Hyatt and look down on the exotic streets from their 30th floor room. You can say you’ve been there, and tick it off the list, but really it’s no different to your experience of any other city or cuisine.
Opened in 2013, by Arjun Waney, who is one of the founders of Zuma and Roka, the restaurant is all high design and has a menu that is constructed to please. Set in a grand old house on the quieter end of Piccadilly, it’s a glamorous postcode, but in reality is a thoroughfare for taxis, buses and tourists heading to Hard Rock Cafe. Suited bouncers and an upstairs members club set the scene for a pricey meal. The basement pisco bar and restaurant has a dark and metallic decor with flashes of colour, giving it the feel of a posh bomb shelter. The menu is split into sections, too many to read through, but is essentially raw dishes or food from the grill. It’s Zuma-high prices, so no matter what combination of dishes you put together you’re looking at over £80 a head.
From the starters a wild Sea bass ceivche was a beautiful fresh dish with orange and fennel shavings and a zingy avocado and red onion salsa (£12). Pork belly (£12) had been cooked on the Josper grill giving it a strong smoky flavour, freshened by the fennel and mint, but there just wasn’t enough of it. This was Weight Watchers pork belly, with all the flat trimmed off. A corn salad (£8) was full of different textures, but served by itself meant you were just eating spoonfuls of what tasted like tinned corn. It would have been far more enjoyable alongside the skewers which came next- first beef (£10) that had a lovely spicing but a slightly unusual mushy texture, and then monkfish (£10) which were perfectly cooked with a smoky red pepper dressing.
A main of sea bream with potatoes and a fennel salad (£17) had a great balance but was let down by the overcooking of the fish. Grilled Tiger prawns with chilli salsa (£27) could have been braver with the chilli and again were a little overdone. From the waiter’s recommendations, sea bass (£33) cooked with rice, lime and sweet corn in iron pot was the best dish of the night. It was a soothing best savoury porridge with an incredible depth of flavours. Once all mixed together it was the sort of dish you want to spoon up on a hungover Sunday. Sides of patatas bravas were like the best bits from the roasties tray and broccoli with sesame seeds and chilli tasted as it does on any other menu.
To finish a thin slice of salted caramel ganache with raspberry sorbet was rich, and needed the raspberry to cut through it.
Portions are small and expensive, and if you’re in the mood for drink, the meal can easily creep up to the £100 per head mark. My previous experience of Peruvian cooking was at Lima, where the flavours were completely new to me and every dish surprised. Here the bold flavours are toned down, and many of the dishes taste very similar to what you have at Roka or Zuma, just with slightly different spicing. It’s undeniably a seductive restaurant that coaxes you into emptying your pockets, but break from its spell and you’ll see that it is far from an exciting take on Peruvian cooking, and is just another addition to stylised international Mayfair scene.
118 Piccadilly, Mayfair, London W1J 7NW