When you visit Ceviche on Old Compton Street, don’t expect to be transported to gritty, colourful and wonderfully chaotic Peru. Instead, be prepared for the Soho dining experience of 2012, a shiny and extremely well designed and dimly lit bar adorned with large filament light bulbs leading to a restaurant packed with closely laid tables, perfect for creating hustle and bustle and ordering a bit of ‘what they’ve had’, and a menu of sharing plates of which you require four or five to fill you up.
In an already saturated market, the thing that makes Ceviche unique is the booze, unfortunately not the food. It’s Europe’s first pisco bar and it serves traditional pisco sours along with a number of pisco cocktails based on the classics. The sours (pisco, lime, syrup, egg white and angostora bitters-£5.50) were good but lacked the potent face-exploding sourness that I was expecting.Luckily I really loved the other cocktails I ordered (of which there were maybe a few too many, so apologies for some of the pictures later). The winner was “The Soho”, a refreshing mix of limo aji chilli infused pisco, cucumber, lime, elderflower, egg white and cracked black pepper.
For the food we followed the instructions and ordered 4 dishes per person, mostly from the Ceviche Bar and Grilled Skewers section with 1 side and 1 classic dish. We were acutely aware of the tab we were running up, but didn’t want to go away hungry. After a 30 minute wait, all the food arrived together which was bonkers considering half was hot, half was cold and one was meant to be a main dish. I would have much preferred getting it in stages to avoid having to lean over some dishes and having to ignore dishes that we were excited about to eat others that were quickly getting cold.
It was a shame too that I found the hot dishes least satisfying, especially the Arroz con Pato (confit duck in coriander and dark beer rice) which despite the beautifully soft duck was lacking in seasoning and spice and came with the highest price tag (£9.80). The chicken (£6.25) and steak skewers (£7.50) were good but nothing amazing and the Solterito salad (£5.25) of broad beans and feta was a welcome tangy distraction from the very meaty start to the meal. If I went back, I would swap all of them for one portion of the beef heart skewers (£5.75) which were rich, meaty and melt in the mouth, and a shed load more ceviche.
The Don Ceviche (£6.75), fresh sea bass in amarillo chilli, tigers milk and red onion was powerfully sour and spicy with a lovely crunch of onions and Pulpo al Olivo (£7.25), braised octopus, was soft, silky and rich in salty olives. The Alianza Lima (£7), prawns, squid and octopus in tigers milk and choclo corn was softer on the tang and sweet but we had to fight over the 1 prawn that came in the dish (a lot stingey). The Barranco I love you (£6.50), seabass served similarly to the Don Ceviche but minus the red onions and plus crunchy corn, was deliciously creamy and tart was gone in seconds. Each ceviche offered two or three bites per person with three people attacking it at a time. Simply not enough.