Pachamama

Pachamama’s stunning food photographs, the recent launch of their all-day brunch menu, and their glorious claims regarding cocktails and deserts that you won’t feel guilty about all drew me to this central London eatery. Situated in the central location of Marylebone, Pachamama’s spirit, although inspired by the culinary traditions of Peru, simultaneously makes the most of the UK’s extraordinary ingredients. In this fashion, the kitchen blends Peruvian and British influences, with a touch of Asia thrown in here and there, creating an interesting fusion menu that leaves you intrigued and keen to sample more.

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Once through the hidden doors and down the stairs, I was immediately struck by the lively South American atmosphere. Yet Pachamama’s basement interior is understated chic: the space is nicely lit, with 1970s Scandi colouring and careful artlessness – think mismatched mirrors, shabby chic sideboards, whitewashed furnishings and lemon plants set within exposed brick walls and a naked ceiling. The décor is a thoughtful mix of rough and smooth, like a beautiful old hacienda in the process of being done up: chunks of plaster knocked out of the pillars, alongside pretty vintage lampshades and wooden dressers full of pot plants. It seems to bring back to life a faded colonial-inspired home adorned with reclaimed antiques, low lighting, laidback Ibiza sounds and a constant influx of trendy twenty- and thirty-somethings. All this made for a vibe that was electric. And although too cold for al fresco eating tonight, the restaurant boasts a rustic garden perfect for a leisurely summer evening.

We began our evening perusing Pachamama’s bar menu. Their cocktails are unsurprisingly centered around Pisco, the national spirit of Peru. On the health bandwagon, the latest Pachamama’s newsletter espoused the benefits of “Chicha Morada”, a purple-corn based syrup packed with anthocyanin, a potent antioxidant with a deep red pigment which makes the purple corn appear like rubies. In superfood style, it’s said to be anti-inflammoatory and anti-carcinogenic, its strengths known to control diabetes and obesity and improve eyesight and heart health. The syrup, made by boiling the dried husks with pineapple, cinnamon, and cloves, features in a sweet sorbet and one of their Pisco Sours – which I was of course drawn to. In terms of design, the bar adds to the appeal of the interior through attractive display of jars of infusions with ingredients from the kitchen such as fennel, beetroot, and rhubarb.

Head Chef Adam Rawson has created a selection of dishes designed to share which, luckily for me, feature vibrant vegetable dishes. Perhaps he was inspired by Pachamama’s previous Head Chef, Tom Catley, who’d worked at Ottolenghi. Dedicated to experimentation and innovation, the menu changes with the seasons and continues to surprise and delight. Food is made for sharing and I would expect nothing less for the restaurant’s name comes from a Peruvian tradition of great feasts hosted by “mama”. Dishes arrive on a staggered basis, fresh from the kitchen and ready to share.

From their dinner menu, their “Soil” section features many options for vegetarian diners. As a big quinoa fan, on the search to find its best preparation, which can too often be bland and boring a la Leon, I opted for the Warm quinoa, garden peas, and summer truffle (£8). What better place to sample this Peruvian delicacy in bold Pachamama, alongside seasonal truffle? The dish was zesty and full of flavour, and the peas deliciously fresh – in both their whole form and the pureed adornment.

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Warm Quinoa, Garden Peas and Summer Truffle

I also tried the Grilled plantain, English malt, and olive candy (£8) impressed by the inclusion of the plaintain, which I so-often associate with Kenya. The sweetness of the plantain was offset by samphire and a mild aji (chilli salsa), although the dish could have done with a touch more flavour. I also tried a bite of my companion’s Fried aubergine, served with smoked yogurt and pecans (£8).  As an aubergine lover, this was undoubtedly one of the best forms of the vegetable I’ve tried. Perhaps the highlight of the “Soil” menu, after the quinoa of course, was the Charred broccoli, mustard seeds, and cancha dish (£8), the mustard providing the perfect backdrop to a fresh, giant green.

With the recent culinary regeneration of Marylebone and the rising fame of Peruvian food, Pachamama is likely a decent contender to compete with the likes of Lima (Floral) and Ceviche. I’ll certainly be returning again – next time for brunch so I can sample their waffles, artfully decorated with edible flora such as violet pansies. Watch this space…

A few snaps of a follow-up trip for Pachamama’s top-notch brunch waffles:

Pachamama, 18 Thayer Street, London, W1U 3JY

Website: http://pachamamalondon.com/

Rating: *****

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