Coya

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.

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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.

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To finish a thin slice of salted caramel ganache with raspberry sorbet was rich, and needed the raspberry to cut through it.

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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.

7/10 (££££)

118 Piccadilly, Mayfair, London W1J 7NW

Coya Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Roka

With a new branch in Mayfair opening its doors, Roka is once again the destination Japanese restaurant in town. The famed robata grill and seductive atmosphere has long been pleasing the customers, but after going to the original Roka on Charlotte Street a couple of weeks ago, I felt it was lacking in that slick, buzzing city atmosphere that you associate with restaurants like Zuma and Hakkasan. But with the Canary Wharf and now Mayfair restaurant open, they once again offer the full package, combining the consistently excellent food with an electric atmosphere. Of course you are going to pay for this, and it’s always a worrying sign when prices don’t appear on the menu on the website, but after a couple of cocktails you’ll soon be too caught up in the seductive charm of the place to care.

The Canary Wharf restaurant has the same beechwood decor and open kitchen, but with views of neighbouring skyscrapers and a much slicker crowd it has a much livelier feel than the Charlotte Street restaurant. It still retains its warmer and more laid back vibe than the likes of Hakkasan and Nobu, which are a little too much like a nightclub both in their darkness and by the little outfits most of the women there are wearing, for my liking. There’s everything you would expect to see on a top Japanese restaurant’s menu, but the real star of the show here comes from the robata grill, which licks everything it touches with a mouthwatering charred flavour. With three friends down for the weekend all wanting a wild night in the big city, Roka is the ideal destination to get the party started. I lost count of the amount of times we waved to the waiter to bring another plate of something.

The soft shell crab was the star of the small plates. There was plenty of it as well, a much more generous portion than I’d had at Nobu, and with that fiery chilli sauce it was incredibly moreish, which meant we ordered 4 of them.

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The yellowfin sashimi with truffle was sensational, with just the right amount of truffle to not overpower the freshness of the tuna. A less experienced restaurant would have doused the dish in truffle to give the impression of grandeur, but here they had the balance expertly gauged.

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The scallop skewers with wasbi and shiso were plump little things with a good hit of heat from the wasabi. They went down dangerously quickly.

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Then there was the ribs except without the bones, and these were perfectly tender chunks of meat in a delicious sauce with a sprinkle of cashews giving an added crunch. The bits that had charred and crisped up had almost a sweet caramel smokiness to them, and were absolutely delicious.

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The black cod is less exciting to me now because it is on the menu at all of these restaurants and there’s little variation from place to place. Marinated in yuzo miso it really is as juicy and tasty a piece of fish you are likely to try. The fish cuts like butter and has a texture like no other seafood you’ll try. It’s also the price of gold, so be sure to let the person you’re trying to impress know that when they are enjoying it melting on their tongue.

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The lamb cutlets coated in Korean spices were big juicy pieces of meat with plenty of charred fat that had melted down from the grill.

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The chicken skewers were incredibly succulent for chicken, and there was plenty of meat to get your teeth into. A few vegetables options included thick spears of grilled asparagus coated with sweet soy and sesame seeds, and a similar fried eggplant version that had a lovely sweetness to it.

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There wasn’t a dish that failed to impress, which should be the case when you consider that we were paying £100 a head (that included a good amount of drink though). But when you think that other restaurants of this type charge the same, if not higher prices, and have smaller portions and inferior cooking, then Roka certainly is worth it. It is also much less filled with posers and those who are desperate to catch a glimpse of a celeb, and because of this is has the feel of a real top London restaurant, making it the best high end Japanese restaurant (on a par with Zuma) in the city. So if you want the full package and don’t care what the bill at the end will say, then this is the place for you.

Food: 9.5/10

Service: 7/10

Atmosphere: 9/10 (Canary Wharf), 7/10 (Charlotte St)

Value: 6/10

Overall: 9/10

1st Floor, 4 Park Pavilion, 40 Canada Square, London E14 5FW

37 Charlotte Street, London W1T 1RR

30 North Audley Street, Mayfair, London W1K 6ZF

 

Roka Canary Wharf on Urbanspoon

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