Pachamama: Well-trodden path

A trip to Peru was one of the most memorable holidays I ever undertook. On returning, I lamented for many years how there was a dearth of Peruvian dining options in London. In the last five, however, the city has gone mad for all things culinary from South America. Peru is now represented by the likes of Coya and Ceviche at the high-end to the more informal such as Casita Andina and indeed Pachamama in the mid-market segment. While thoroughly enjoyable, a recent visit to Pachamama yielded nothing new in terms of discovery. This is not to fault the restaurant per se, but it seemed simply to be following an incredibly well-trodden path. Put another way, at Pachamama you get shabby-chic décor, upbeat tunes, sharing dishes and a menu heavy on the obligatory ceviche to eat, pisco cocktails to drink. On the Friday lunchtime when we visited, the venue seemed curiously devoid of atmosphere, even if it did gradually fill up. Noise levels rose as lunch went on, and while I am sure that on a weekend night, things must be pretty happening here, I couldn’t help worrying that the poor acoustics may limit the enjoyment factor for some. Where Pachamama stood out for us – and what would merit a return visit – was simply how good the cooking was. In particular, the restaurant excelled itself in terms of its vegetarian offerings, particularly a fried aubergine dish with smoked yoghurt and pecans as well as one comprising caramelised sweet potato. The other piece of good news is that all dishes are priced fairly (a sirloin at £12 tops the bill), meaning you can choose many. Beyond the vegetable options, spicy tuna tartare and crispy lamb belly also pleased. Marks too to the restaurant for wine (a good list, again fairly priced) and service (friendly and efficient). Conclusion: Pachamama won’t blow you away, but if you’re in the Marylebone area and after Peruvian food, then this is the place to go.