14 November 2015

Senor Ceviche

'Do you remember the time we all locked ourselves in the bathroom and gave each other hickeys?!' A memory we'd all forgotten resurfaced this week when table talk turned to when we all first lived together. A flat with far too many stairs above an East end corner shop, a sticky lino kitchen floor and a box bedroom with the boiler that flooded. London: a baptism by fire for Sophie.

That was five years ago. Final years of university and Masters for some and first years of proper jobs and growing up for others. Ash and I still live together but Soph is West which means a bit more planning has to take place and when boyfriends and long days get thrown into the mix, it's easier said than done. But now we're all (whisper it) single, we keep finding reasons to order yet another cocktail.

Just like we did on Wednesday at Senor Ceviche. Part of the hugely successful Kingly Court development off Carnaby Street, a shining piazza of some seriously good restaurants, it's a  'Peruvian casa full of fun, food and cocktails'. Bustling and busy at 8pm, we were shown to our (booked!) table within 10 minutes and took up prime position next to the open kitchen.

First on the agenda were the cocktails. We each started with something different (because reasons) despite the photograph. Ash's Mancora Surfclub (Machu Pisco, elderflower, cucumber and apple) was fresh and light, Soph's Pisco Punch (Machu Pisco, lemon juice, rosemary and pineapple juice) was sweet and fragrant whilst my Mamacita! (El Jimador, Cointreau, lime juice, agave and fresh jalapeno) was tart with a perfect bite and a delicious salted, chilli rim.

Then onto the food. The menu here is divided into four sections but essentially it's about small plates and sharing dishes which, as I've mentioned countless times before, is perfect for me because I get serious food envy and it means you can try a thousand more things on the menu. Our friendly waitress recommended three dishes per person and between the three of us that meant we'd cover about half the menu. Dream.

Before we get into the specific dishes, I have to say that we ordered perfectly. Practically everything that arrived at the table was mouthwateringly brilliant and so consistent in quality that Senor Ceviche has shot to the top of my list.

First to arrive were the aubergine picarones - bites of eggplant in sweet potato tempura with a barbecue sauce and coriander yoghurt. Crisp and juicy, these were seriously moreish and we fought over the last one.

Then there was the jalea mixto - tempura baby squid, prawns and cod with a jalapeno mayo. I didn't manage to try any of the prawn but the squid and cod were firm and well cooked in the light batter and tossed with spring onion.

And the pork belly. Oh, the pork belly. Crisp, fatty pieces of melt-in-the-mouth slow cooked pork belly with a sweet soy jam, just the way I like it.

The two ceviches we chose were excellent. The house ceviche comprises of sea bass and octopus in the usual tiger's milk and topped with cubed avocado, tempura squid and sharp red onion, while The Spaniard added king prawn to the mix, tomato tiger's milk, chorizo and plantain. Generous portions of fish, freshly marinated and citrusy with plenty of sauce to mop up. I could eat this for days.

Next came the baby back ribs (which I didn't eat because I'm a heathen who doesn't like ribs) and the flat iron with uchucuta sauce (the Peruvian version of chimichurri). The rarest they'll serve it is medium rare but ours came on the more well done side of the medium scale; despite this, the meat was to die for and the parsley and mint salsa brought a sharp tang to the protein.

And for a bit of variation, the sweet potato fritas were nice enough (for someone who doesn't like sweet potato) and the quinoa saltero fresh and light. A generous mound of beetroot and feta sat atop the grain and, whilst underseasoned, acted as a nice little palate cleanser.

Somewhere in the middle two more rounds of cocktails were ordered, desserts were passed up on and setting the world to rights took place. You'll be pleased to hear we've grown out of our drunken hickey-giving antics but our taste in good venues hasn't waned in the slightest. Senor Ceviche, you were an utter delight and a five out of five.

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