Andina is the new sister restaurant of my favourite restaurant in London: Ceviche. However, it seems she still has a way to go before she grows into her looks.
Inside, the decor is clean and bright with pops of colour and the warmth of Peruvian textiles. Clearly a lot of love has gone into its understated design. It feels much more like a cafe than Ceviche does, which works better, I think, with its wider brunch and lunch menus. But if I’m honest, and I say this with a heavy heart, I feel it lacks the soul and seductive charms of Ceviche, where you are instantly transported to Lima upon entering.
The crowd here is starchier and less worldly than that of Ceviche, with groups of business men in suits and rowdy girls dolled up for heavy sessions out on the town. And the Latin grooves that pulsate through Ceviche were nowhere to be found at our table on the basement level.
Instinctively, we ordered pisco sours to start with. These zesty little cocktails are made by blending egg whites with lime juice and pisco (a fruity brandy). They certainly didn’t disappoint, although they didn’t taste as good as they do at Ceviche, where the hypnotic music enhances the overall experience.
To start with we ordered the mini pork chicharrones – although they didn’t arrive until after we’d finished our main dishes. These zingy little cubes of crunchy pork are served with a sweet criolla and rocoto salsa, fresh coriander and a mild chilli sauce – easily my favourite dish of the meal (if only you could buy a main course version).
We ordered the weekday lunch set menu, which at £9 offers peerless value for money. The Ceviche Andina was equally as fresh and flavourful as the one they make at Ceviche, and the spicy, zesty tiger milk marinade was plate-licking good.
The quinoa burger, which is quickly gathering legendary status, was rich and meaty in a nutty sort of way. Served with kiwi and a chilli mayonnaise, this tasty little veggie burger is enough to turn even the most diehard of meat fiends.
Similarly to Ceviche, Andina’s staff is young and informal, running around and shouting to each other in Spanish. We were served by two or three different people, all sincere and eager to please, although we did have a few glitches. Understandably, if you order the Ceviche Andina, they bring it to you as soon as possible, ensuring you get to enjoy it at its freshest. However, it came before our ‘nibbles’ and our drinks, and was long gone by the time we received the accompanying dishes. Nevertheless, the quality and depth of flavour still put a huge grin on my face.
For an authentic, out-of-this-world Peruvian dining experience, you won’t be disappointed at Andina. The food is unpretentious and expertly crafted with a healthy dash of Latin love. But for sheer culinary seduction and an electrifying atmoshphere, my vote still goes to the ol’ faithful Ceviche.