The chef is English and the waiter French. The food is Peruvian with Japanese influences. This mélange might sound like too much of an international mix, but the overall effect at Coya, Piccadilly was a lunch with delicious, light food, welcoming ambience and addictive Pisco sours.
Invited by Fiona Maclean of London Unattached to review the healthy drinks menu – along with the set lunch – I was charmed from the minute I walked in the front door. The Latin music transported one immediately far from the traffic snarl up on Piccadilly.
One enters a subterranean space sporting a long bar on which sit huge flagons of Pisco (a Peruvian brandy) infused with raspberry. Brightly coloured paintings on cobalt blue walls add to the Latin atmosphere while huge displays of exotic flowers encourage one to forget about the London rain.
Wine bottles in racks line the atmospheric passage that leads to the restaurant which is another well designed set of rooms. Leather banquettes line the walls while across the wooden tables, comfortable dining chairs are covered in mustard coloured fabrics. An impressive array of artworks adorn the walls which are clad in metal panels.
Our delightful and charming waiter encouraged us to kick off proceedings with Pisco cocktails. Not having had the opportunity to try one of these before I put myself in his hands. Fiona had the traditional Pisco sour while I had one with passion fruit. WOW! What a fabulous drink – like a mild margarita, not too sweet and deeply alcoholic.
After this relaxing start to our lunch, we moved on to the healthy drinks menu which has recently been launched. A long list of smoothies and cleansers included every imaginable fruit and vegetable and, if the impressive list of combinations did not suffice, one could concoct one’s own drink. I settled on the Berrylicious smoothie which was served well chilled and combined raspberries, blackberries pomegranate, apple, honey and ginger. It was very refreshing, not too sweet and had the perfect hit of ginger. Fiona had a Salsita from the list of cleansers which included plum vine tomatoes, kale, cilantro, celery and tabasco.
The set menu – we had 4 courses – for £33.50 is good value for some super food.
We began with two ceviche dishes which showcased the fusion of Peruvian and Japanese influences known as Nikkei. As Peru has the second largest Japanese population in South America, the two cuisines have influenced one another to achieve a wonderful mix where ceviche meets sushi and comes up trumps.
Lubina Clásico had small cubes of sea bass, sweet potato, white corn and red onion with tiny morsels of chilli adding heat. The lime marinade was quite delicious with the sea bass while the the crunchy corn added textural interest.
Salmón Nikkei presented small cubes of salmon with celery juice, ginger, daikon and wasabi tobiko. This was so fresh and packed with Omerga-3 that one felt healthy just looking at it. The crunchy celery added a welcome crunch.
Both dishes were beautifully presented on bowls of ice. Every dish had its unique ceramic bowl and added visual flavour to food that was already delicately spiced.
For the next course we shared an Ensalada de Quinoa and a Tacos de Atun. The quinoa salad had a lovely nutty texture, the quinoa having been perfectly cooked. It had tiny tomatoes, pomegranate seeds and jewel-like cucumber cubes along with mint and coriander. It was slightly over salted to my taste but I liked the chilli flavouring and the blend of herbs which made the dish zing.
The tuna tacos was totally moreish, the sort of snack I could happily eat every day. A tuna tartare nestled in tiny tacos with yuzu and mild wasabi adding extra flavours and chopped chives adding colour. The contrast of the crunchy tacos with the delicate tuna was very pleasing indeed.
The main courses were generously portioned – so much so that we feared we might not manage dessert. Pollo al Josper was a chicken breast on a bed of roasted vegetables and topped with a coriander aioli. Roasted inside a Josper – which we were treated to a view of later when we toured the kitchen – the meat has a barbecued flavour as essentially a Josper is an indoor BBQ which cooks at very high temperatures and traps all the moisture inside its heavy doors.
This was possibly the most tender chicken breast I have ever eaten. It had a gorgeous, rich glaze while the pea green coriander aioli looked pretty. It tasted like a subtle coriander cream which just lifted the dish to something special.
The Filete de Dorada was a sea bream fillet perched on a potato salad alongside a shaved fennel salad. The fish had been glazed so beautifully that its skin resembled an abstract painting. The fish was well cooked with lovely chilli notes rising up from the marinade.
By now my taste buds were dancing with flavour and my stomach was feeling all too full. Would we like dessert asked our charming waiter? How could we resist?
I ordered a selection of ice creams because I simply could not forgo helados of quinoa, another of coffee and cinnamon and a third of chicha morada – a Peruvian drink made from purple corn.
Accompanied by wafer thin brandy snaps, these were certainly the most exotic flavours I have had in recent times, and looked gorgeous on a bed of ice.
The pièce de resistance was the Parfait de Arabicas. This was a stunning dessert which Fiona was wise to order. Slices of caramelised banana sat on a chocolate sauce with rum soaked raisins, Balanced on the banana was a cigar of coffee and cinnamon ice cream rolled in kiwicha (a Peruvian superfood seed) which in turn was topped with rum infused cream and chocolate leaves. Oh My!
We ended our fabulous meal with coffee and mint tea and could easily have spent all afternoon in this welcoming environment.
We ended with a tour of the kitchen, the private room where guests can enjoy a chef’s table, and, finally, the private members’ room. This is one club I would not mind joining.